10 Things: New Orleans

“We wander through old streets, and pause before the age stricken houses; and, strange to say, the magic past lights them up.”

~ Grace King, French Quarter Guidebook ~

I absolutely love New Orleans; not the loud, drunken partying New Orleans, but the cultural, culinary, historical and gracious New Orleans.

My husband knows this, so when he had to schedule a business trip to this grand old Southern City last week, he made arrangements for me to accompany him.

{He’s thoughtful that way.}

While Bourbon Street is clearly the most happening place in New Orleans, I tend to prefer the more subdued side of town.  You may ask what else is there to experience in this town known for its lively side, so let me share some of my favorite things to enjoy while traveling New Orleans.  I’ve included a few tips and links to help you plan your own vacation.

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1. Step back in time and tour the plantations on Louisiana’s old River Road.  From the stunning Houmas House and Gardens to the lesser known St. Josephs plantation (owned by the same family since 1877), these are still estates with working gardens or sugar cane crops!

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The Houmas House, also known as the Burnside Plantation or “The Sugar Palace”… The original portion of the house was built in the 1700s with  additions made by later owners completed in the 1840s.  The original portion of the home was built in the Federal style of architecture that was so common in the late 1700s, but the newer portion is obviously Greek Revival style which was used in many old southern homes.

We toured Houmas House first thing in the morning before the tour buses arrived.  It was still cool and quiet which made for a lovely and relaxing morning.

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The Houmas House guided tour is quite informative and well worth taking.  You will hear stories of several generations who lived there as well as a few details on furniture (Audley loved the 150 year old humidor) and accessories throughout the house.

 

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St. Joseph’s Plantation in Vacherie was built in the 1820s.  I love the French Creole architecture of the area and time.  The house was originally opened on the bottom as many Creole homes were, but was enclosed prior to the Civil War so that the home is 12,000 square feet!  My guide, Rae was full of information and facts including that the home was built from cypress wood since it was inexpensive to use, then faux finished to look like oak which was much more expensive!  Very interesting when so many seem to think faux finishes are a newer design concept. 

I visited St. Josephs later in the afternoon where I enjoyed a personal tour.  There were only a few other people around this time of day so I had plenty of opportunity to ask questions and really soak in the history.

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Sugar Cane (certified organic) is still grown and harvested here at St. Josephs.  

If you love history and architecture, this is definitely a stop on your list of “to-do’s”.

2. Treat your sweet side with a trip to Sucre’ on Magazine Street for authentic French macarons, chocolates, and pastry.  Make sure you have left room in your carry-on for carrying a few delights home with you!

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Window shopping is quite sweet while strolling the streets of NOLA

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3. Enjoy the beautiful, historic Jackson Square in the French Quarter and take a tour of the stunning St. Louis Cathedral with her Renaissance & Spanish (which surprises me since Louisiana was such a large French colony) architecture, first completed in 1793 and added onto in 1850!

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The Andrew Jackson statue … Hence the naming of Jackson Square.

4. Enjoy a carriage ride through the French Quarter with a knowledgable and entertaining guide.  If you are limited on time, this is one of the best ways to take in a little of local New Orleans history and flavor.

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We took our tour at twilight and left from in front of the cathedral, where tours leave from all day.  We participated in a group tour so our ride was $20/each, Carriages for two run about $45/each.

5. Indulge your taste buds with delicious New Orleans flavor by dining at one of the many local restaurants found in the downtown area.  We thoroughly enjoyed dining at the Red Fish Grill located on Bourbon Street (near Canal).

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Start your meal with fresh, Gulf oysters shucked right in front of you, then venture into the dining room for a delicious meal showcasing traditional, local flavor.

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I highly recommend the shrimp and grits topped with friend pickled okra and pancetta, although Audley was totally suggest the wood plank grilled red fish with lump crab meat.

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No matter which you prefer, make reservations before heading out for the evening.  This is true for almost every restaurant in the area!

6. And while you are making reservations be sure make time for a cooking class at the New Orleans School of Cooking.  

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Our demo and tasting class included Gumbo, jambalaya, and Pralines and was only $28 each.  We were so full when we left, so it is well worth participating in.

Here you can choose a demo and tasting class, or a full hands-on instructional class.  Either way, you are going to learn a lot about traditional French cooking from Colonial, Louisiana and how it evolved with Italian, African, and Haitian influences into the amazing flavors we enjoy today!

7. While I’m definitely not a fan of Bourbon Street, I LOVE strolling down it long enough to reach Fritzel’s European Jazz Pub.  A stop in Fritzels is like stepping back in time to mid-century France or Germany with their jazz clubs, long wooden tables and benches included.  It doesn’t take long for you to find yourself lost in the music, leaving the present day behind.

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There is not a cover charge for Fritzels, but there is a minimum one drink per set purchase required; bottled water counts as a drink!

8.  Tour an old historic cemetery as there are plenty to choose from.  The old St Louis Cemetery #1 is the most popular and requires a $20 admission and comes with a guide.  Audley and I enjoy exploring on our own and there are several which allow you to do just that.  One of our favorites in the Hook and Ladder cemetery (established in 1858) in Gretna.  It’s not too big, still lovely in a unique way, and definitely worth checking out.  If you want to make your tour a little more interesting, read up on how these family mausoleums work… extremely interesting!

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The Hook and Ladder is located next to fabulous restaurant, The Red Maple,  which I also highly recommend you visit for supper one night!

9. Take some time out to shop the market in the French Quarter. From local boutiques artisans to stereotypical gift shops, there is something to be found for everyone on your shopping list.

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10. Did you really visit New Orleans if you skip over Cafe du Monde?  Located next to Jackson Square in the Quarter, stopping in for beignets and a cafe au lait in this famous open-air cafe is a must-do on your trip.  Choosing from a very limited menu of hot chocolates, coffee, cafe au lait and beignets takes little time.  There is really no excuse to miss this cafe as they are open 24-hours!

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Have you visited New Orleans before?  What are your favorite things to do in this grand old city?

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Fit Friday: 15 Gifts that will Build Fitness

The New Year has arrived and along with it comes more than half the people you know that have made the resolution to be more healthy and/or fit in 2015.  We all know that resolution; we’ve all made it at one time or another.  But for me, the New Year brings a whole lot of gift giving.  It’s not the 12 days of Christmas, but birthday season.  That means between now and June each of my nieces and nephews, as well as my own children, will have their birthdays.  I’m one of those aunts/moms that loves to find something useful or educational as a gift, so here are some great ideas for gifts that will encourage kids and adults alike to get out and get to moving!  WIth the help of a fitness-oriented gift, some of those New Years resolutions may become realities.

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Here are several suggestions (in all price ranges) that are perfect for promoting fitness in children and adults alike!

FOR THE KIDDOS:

1.  Toys that will get the kiddos moving… skateboards, ripsticks, bikes (with a helmet), scooters, hula hoops …. emphasize that fitness is fun!

2. Kids love music and kids love to dance.  Keeping that in mind, Shaun T’s Fit Kids Club DVD (Beachbody) with it’s popping music will have kids of all ages and stages dancing their booties off.

3.  If you don’t mind spending a little more for kids challenge older ones in your family with a home wall climbing kit.  You can find these as accessories to backyard playsets or construct one in a garage or basement.  Also, kids LOVE trampolines and will spend hours bouncing, flipping and flopping on one.  This is great cardiovascular exercise as well as good for their little muscles.

4.  A gift certificate for a class.  Think ballet or dance, karate, or even horseback riding.  Think of something that promises fun and adventure, but also keep in mind their own personalities.

FOR GROWN-UPS:

5.  Paid registration fees for a Color Run 5K or other fun walk/run.  Register yourself as well and you’ll have a training partner on hand.

6.  Gift certificate for a sports store like Academy or Dick’s Sporting Goods.  If they like to run try a certificate to a running store like Fleet Feet so that they can be properly fitted for running shoes.

7.  FitBit activity trackers.

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These are all the rage right now and will sync right up with a smart phone to track number of steps taken in a day, heart rate, sleep patterns, and other personal metrics. It also has an option so that you challenge others who use a FitBit and compete against each other.  A little friendly competition never hurt anyone!

FOR ANYONE:

8.  Stainless steel or BPA-free water bottles ( GAIAM, Klean Kanteen, CafePress)  reduce plastic in landfills and come in tons of fun designs to fit every personality!

9.  A small iPod shuffle is perfect for working out/running.

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You can throw in an iTunes gift card so that they can download a few hip tunes and they will be ready to go!

10.  Earphones or ear buds that won’t fall off during a workout are always a welcome treat!

11.  Easy at-home workout equipment like resistance bands, a bosu or ball help with all over fitness routines without going to the gym.

FOR THE FAMILY:

12.  Indoor rock climbing adventure gift certificates (from REI.com) for an afternoon of family fun (and often entertainment!) White water rafting is also a fun family adventure!

13.  SherrillTree offers tips and gear – like pulleys and snaps – for recreational tree climbing.  Both adults and kids would love this!

14. Family gift cards to a trampoline center like Gravitopia or Pump-it-Up (Different cities have different names for these places).

15. My all-time favorite Twister.

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Surly you remember this fun game from your own childhood!  Imagine the laughs everyone would have with this!

A few guidelines for giving fitness related gifts; give them only to those you are close to, and those who would welcome and enjoy them!  Base the gift on what the recipient does or wants to do, not on what you would like for them to do.  Never give a fitness gift that suggests they lose weight or try a new sport, unless they are game.  When in doubt, ask.

Have you ever given or received a fitness related gift?  How did you enjoy it?

 

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Favorite Things: Too Faced Boudior Eyes

After years of my simple “stay-at-home-mom”  look, I have developed a love for makeup, hair and fashion that I’ve not had since before my oldest daughter was born.  Call it a mid-life crises if you like, but the last several months has found me playing with color and style like I havent for years, especially since I am out in public a whole lot more than I ever was.

To be honest with you, I like it a lot.  My girls like it too, as we have had a lot of fun shopping and dressing up together for all kinds of occasions.

While I have been brand specific for years (more on that another day), lately I have had fun with color from other cosmetic collections, specifically, Too Faced.  For work and play I name their Boudoir Eyes palette my new favorite thing.

With names like “In the Buff”, “Satin Sheets” & “Lap Dance” what lady wouldn’t be drawn to Too Faced’s sassy Boudoir Eyes collection?
It’s not just for my hubby in bedroom and has definitely become one of my favorite eye color palettes to wear for everyday.

My favorite color palette right now

My favorite color palette right now

I love the shimmery, subtle & romantic colors in this palette that I actually discovered by accident while at Ulta a few weeks back. My favorite Natural at Night palette was out of stock and while exploring other options I happened upon this gorgeous collection.

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I have learned over the last several months that applying a lid primer helps the shadow to last longer throughout the day which is most beneficial while in the gym all day. I love Shadow Insurance also by Too Faced as it provides good coverage and isn’t difficult to remove at night.

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And as always, Too Faced provides a suggestion card with ideas for wearing this great collection for several occasions, which is quite beneficial to those of us rediscovering our love for make-up!

For other pairings with the Boudoir Eyes Palette I recommend Too Faced waterproof eye liner in “Perfect Storm” and completing the look with the “Better than Sex” mascara.
It just makes you feel all pretty!

Have you ever tried any of Too Faced’s color collections? What do you think?

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Jen’s Summer Must-Haves

With a sweltering Southern summer fully underway, I thought it would be fun to share some of my must-haves for the season.
Between road trips, day trips, company receptions with the hubs & chilling at home I’m always looking for ways to enjoy the summer, attempt to look good, and even make things a little more relaxing and fun.
So, in no particular order here are my summer must-haves:
1)  A good book!  High on my list for the summer is Mary Kay Andrew’s latest novel, “Ladies Night”.  I love my Southern authors and after meeting Mrs. Andrews a couple of years ago at  blogger’s dinner I love her work even more!
from my Instagram account
“Ladies Night” has a touch of mystery, a little romance, a great storyline and since the story is about a lifestyle blogger, many of us can relate!
2) New tunes on the iPod.  I have very eclectic taste in music.  Audley refers to it as schizophrenic musical taste.  My summer playlist has a little country and a little top 40, mixed with a little easy listening.
My favorite album at the moment is The Great Gatsby soundtrack.  It’s my “go to” music for working out.
Other songs high on my playlist include:
Brad Paisley’s Beat This Summer
Darius Rucker’s Wagon Wheel
Kenny Chesney’s Summertime
Florida-Georgia Line (featuring Nelly) Cruise
Jake Owen’s Barefoot Bluejean Night
Mumford & Sons I Will Wait
Rihanna’s Shine Bright Like a Diamond
The Script’s Hall of Fame
Pink
F.U.N.
Barbra Streisand
&
a little Harry Connick Jr.
I told you I had eclectic taste in music.
3) A cute insulated cup for keeping hydrated while working in the yard, sitting at the ballpark, working out, or chilling on the beach.

This colorful one is from TJ Maxx and was under $10.

FYI: You need to be drinking at the very least half your body weight in ounces of water everyday!  If you drink sodas, work out, or are outside a lot you need to drink even more!
4) Summer color.  I love, love, love makeup and summertime is the perfect time to change up those winter browns & neutrals and add a little color!
If you prefer a more subtle look, go with the Two Faced summer palette.  Light but colorful it just makes me happy!
$36.00 at Ulta.com
If you are bold and daring, pick up Estee Lauder’s limited edition summer palette!  Bold and daring, it’s perfect for a summer night out, dining on the patio of your favorite restaurant.
$48.00 at Belk or any other department store that carries Estee lauder cosmetics
I have both of these and absolutely adore them!
5)  A good neutral nail polish.  I love Essie’s “Penny Talk”.  Whether I wear pink or orange or green, this neutral color is just perfect and the shimmer makes me happy.

It’s perfect for the gym, the beach, church and going out with your significant other.

6) A pumice stone.  Why pay a fortune for a subpar mani/pedi with who knows what chemicals are used on you, when you can spend less than $8 on a pumice stone to rub those heels smooth.
You can find this at any Walgreens, Rite Aid or CVS as well as Target, WalMart or Sally Beauty Supply.
Your feet will be sandal & flip flop ready in a matter of minutes!
I do most all of my own mani/pedis because I do not like the strong lotions & scrubs that a nail spa is prone to use.

Just give me a little Olay body lotion and I
am all set!
I have a great homemade scrub I’ll share next week that is perfect for smoothing your hands, elbows, ankles and feet.
{Think coconut.}
 
7)  Cute hair accessories.  From a floppy beach hat to a cute hair clip keeping the sun off of your face and sweat from your neck requires pulling it back or putting it up.
Have fun picking out great hair accessories.
from Scarves.net
Use a colorful sheer scarf to tie back you hair from your face or check out your local Walgreens for cute clips and ponytail holders.
Or you can do like me and cut all of your hair off.
{Yep, I sure did!}
8) A comfy beach chair.  Whether you are chilling in the back yard or lounging on the beach these great chairs by Tommy Bahama are perfect.

 

Straps allow you to carry it like a backpack for easy transportation when it is folded up.  It also boasts a cooler pouch for a couple of bottles of water, a small pillow for neck support, a pouch to keep you cup out of the sand, and a space for your keys or cell phone.
We found these at Costco for only $28.00 and they come in assorted colors and patterns to brighten up your space.
9)  A colorful beach umbrella.  Large umbrellas like this are perfect for evenings at the ballpark watching little league baseball, sheltering a picnic and of course a little shade on the hot beach.

You can order this exact stye online from World Market for only $3.74 right now!!

 

World Market had a great selection of sturdy and playful umbrellas this season and they range from $10-30.  Not too bad!
10) Outdoor games.  Right now our family favorite is Bocce Ball.

 

Don’t ask me to explain it because I can’t, but I do know whether teenagers or my crazy family is having a cookout this is a must-have for us!
Kids from our youth group playing Bocce in the front yard.

You can find Bocce Ball at Target.  They have sets starting at $35, although we did pay a little more for this one.

What are you summer must-haves?  It’s just getting started and I would love to know what you need for the season!