Follow by Email

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Furlough Week!

That's right - it's Furlough Week. Jeff's company made the decision to furlough their employees for a week in December and my thoughts immediately went to local fun! This is a great state for vacations and we just don't seem to find the time to venture out into our own backyard.


 Arizona!!


I've been wanting to try OKRA in downtown Phoenix and our first Friday night had us seated with friends for a delicious dinner. The menu at OKRA (www.okraaz.com) was right up my alley ... think throwback southern-style cocktails to get your thirst quenched. Appetizers like cornmeal battered hush-puppies, spiced pork rinds, and fried dilly beans lined our table for snacking. For mains we ordered Pig-Cheek Pot Pie, Tennessee Hot Fried Chicken, and their Two-Wash Hen & Dumplings. Dessert couldn't have been tastier for their seasonal homemade pie. Ours was a chocolatey pecan.... I LOVE me some Southern food.




The Tempe Arts Festival just happened to be this weekend and we love wandering through the booths to pick up some last minute Christmas gifts and swoon over the artists designs. I'm always thinking I'll start painting or throwing the clay around, or even weld some magical sculpture after this fair. Alas, it's never happened. A girl can dream, right? BTW - They've got a website at www.tempefestivalofthearts.com.




Our Fantasy Football team meets up on Sunday mornings and it's the highlight of the fall season as far as I'm concerned. This week's breakfast crowd gathered at Yucca Taproom on Southern Avenue at Mill Avenue. Quite a cool set-up with two rooms (one loud, one not as loud) and some good beer on tap. Everybody favored the breakfast burrito this weekend and the taps were hopping! This local bar has a website too at www.yuccatap.com.


 Cottonwood focus!!


The Cardinals were on with a win and we headed over to FATE Brewing Company in Scottsdale (www.fatebrewing.com) for a visit with our great friends the Ashtons, and their new puppy, Heidi. Wish I had a picture to show you this adorable lab furbaby. She was the best little pup in the bar and we were able to catch up on all the family shenanigans from one kid to the next.

Coffee with friends, dentist visits, yardwork, pool cleaning, etcetera... Jeff got a taste of a regular week around here. Can't wait for retirement!!!

We headed over to the Desert Botanical Garden mid-week (www.dbg.org) and it couldn't have been prettier. Well, it could have been prettier if the wildflowers were still blooming, but hey - it's a desert garden everybody!! Check out these cool pics of our day.


Chihully Glass in the Garden. 



Sculpture of Mother Earth in the Garden. 




Mr. Roadrunner all puffed up in the sunshine. 


Mr. Smith - ready for retirement!! 


A gorgeous view of Camelback Mountain. 


This Crested Saguaro is a very rare specimen - fingers crossed that it makes it at the garden!! 


We caught a great brunch at Snooze Tempe (www.snoozeeatery.com/tempe) afterwards - their Sweet Potato Pancakes with a side of bacon are just this side of heaven. Great service - gorgeous outdoor patio right in the heart of ASU. I love seeing students wandering to class, their backpacks full of nonsense and their brains full of ... yup. 






Our friends, the Wedsworths, invited us to join them for a day trip to Cottonwood and Sedona. What a terrific idea!! First stop - Page Springs Cellars (www.pagespringscellars.com) where they are members.




We had the best service, a gorgeous lunch, lovely wines, and a brisk view of their vineyards.






I have never been to Cottonwood and had no idea it was so darling!! 




We stopped into a few shops, had a glass or two of vino, bought tea at a fabulous tea house  - The Wild Rose Tea House - PLEASE do yourself a favor and stop into this darling spot located under the gateway sign shown below. Or order something online at www.wildrosetea.net!! There are teas to calm the spirit, and soothe the soul. I'm not lying. 




 Off to Sedona where we visited the shops at Tlaquepaque and had dinner at Elote Cafe. Seriously. This non-descript spot in an old hotel (also non-descript though I think it might be a Holiday Inn??) was incomparable. The food, the service, the margaritas! Chips were nice, salsa was spicy. Service was friendly and efficient. The beans - TO DIE FOR! Loved the Buffalo Mole, the Smoked Chicken Enchiladas, the heavenly Sea Bass, and the Pork Carnitas. It was all incredibly flavorful with chipotle overtones and the setting sun just beyond the gorgeous red rocks of Sedona. Todos increible!!

Walks in the park, dog-sitting our beloved granddogs, visiting with our Fantasy Football teammates, celebrating the holidays with friends, and enjoying the wonderful weather that Arizona is known for. I love this life of mine.





Hugs,
Deb :)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Climb Away With Me


Staircases

Hard
Simple
Confusing
Strange
Complicated
Endearing
Unruly
Beautiful
Charmed
Just like Life ... 
And This Life is Mine.  

Simplicity is the glory of expression. 
~ Walt Whitman

What is simpler than a 
Vertically constructed bridge to the top of there?
Stairs... stairway... staircase... stairwell... 

What will you find
At the top of the stairs? 



In Bisbee, Arizona


In Carlsbad, California


In Ojai, California


And again in Bisbee, Arizona
Whew.... right? 

Fascinating and gorgeous, impractical and necessary, small and large, concrete and carpeted, overgrown and swept, inside and outside, railed and unrailed, creaky and silent...



In Kotor, Montenegro

I love stairs not only because an incomparable number of possibilities await at the top of the stairs, but because they suggest both zeal and repose. 



On a back porch in Arizona


In a church in Barcelona


Or a church in Puerto Rico


Up and down, over and across, around and about... 


Forgotten in Carmel, California 



My great grandparents had stairs like these (albeit a bit taller and wider) and we children used to run to the top and slide all the way down on our bums. 
Past the grandfather clock, knocking our shoes along the rails, and
Squealing all the way down. 
A fascination like this has gotta start somewhere. 



It's like a Stairway to Heaven ... thank you Led Zeppelin!




In Grenada, outside a church




In the Napa Valley, California 


On the Emerald Princess 



And in Amsterdam, Netherlands

I'll find them anywhere and photograph them like crazy.

To me a staircase means endless possibility and I'm enamored!


To the top, To the top, To the top of the stairs with you!
:) Deb




Thursday, November 12, 2015

Halloween in NOLA!

My Friends... there are just some things seen that cannot be unseen.

Point 1 - Older (than me) woman walking down Bourbon Street wearing nothing but her shorts and saggy boobs painted as a spider's web. And when I say "saggy" I mean it. I know saggy!

Point 2 - Older (than me) sharing her boobs in the Old Absinthe Bar and loving it! God love her.

Point 3 - Small man in wheelchair doing a striptease. Yes. That can never be unseen.

You could be done with my blog entry right about now, or you may continue, but the punch lines are already given.

We ventured to New Orleans with our son and his sweet sweet girlfriend over Halloween Weekend. What an adventure!!




We made our home base The Elysian Fields Inn (www.elysianfieldsinn.com) and had a superb stay. Lovely and comfortable bedrooms, delicious breakfasts, and a great location walking distance from Frenchman Street and the French Quarter. Our hosts Bob and Michelle were gracious and friendly, sharing loads of information about the area. We couldn't be happier with this find and will likely stay here again and again. Kudos!!

Friday Night Fun: When we told Michelle at Elysian Fields what we had planned she was a bit unbelieving, but we planned and conquered! First stop was Cafe Rose Nicaud on Frenchman Street (www.caferosenicaud.com) for some spunky spiked ginger limeades. Sweet, tart, delicious, and icy cold to help combat the humidity of the city. Now Frenchman has your music scene and the joints were hoppin' even in the early afternoon. Loads of jazz, blues, rock, and you name it up and down the street. Our self-guided historic walking tour took us past several notable buildings throughout the French Quarter including the Cornstalk Hotel, the Ursuline Convent, and Jackson Square.





There are so many colonial and antebellum buildings throughout the quarter to peek at.

Dinner was (for the very first time!) at Pierre Maspero's (www.originalpierremasperos.com) on Chartres Street. Super friendly service with terrific recommendations for chicken and waffles, crawfish etoufee, crab cakes, and more. I would eat here a second or third time for sure. Next up we stopped into Arnaud's Lounge for a "French75" cocktail. This delightfully bubbly beverage was created right here at Arnaud's (www.arnaudsfrenchrestaurant.com) and was one of the highlights of our trip. No... the saggy boobies were NOT a highlight. The lounge was classically genteel, as you may well imagine with tuxedo-ed wait staff who were most gracious. My favorite drinking establishment of the entire trip I'd say. We popped over to Kingfish next where one of the country's greatest bartender resides and sadly... he wasn't there. But his cocktails were there and they were New Orleans Strong! The service was great, the drinks were marvelous, but the snacks were a pass for me. I thought the recommended Boudin Balls tasted like last week's meatloaf in a ball. Ick. But hit them up for some local flavor (www.kingfishneworleans.com). Next we sampled some sticky barbecuey ribs at Beachbum Berry's Latitude 29 Tiki Bar, right across the way from the great Mississippi River. We favor tikis around here and couldn't wait to try this bar - highly recommended it was from USA Today. The food was pretty good and the mac salad was especially nice. We shared one of those giant-ass drinks in a tiki bowl with extra long straws and it was sweet but not overly alcohol-based. Which can work in your favor or not depending on the mood. Good stuff - check them out at www.latitude29nola.com. They still can't compete with Frankie's Tiki Room in Las Vegas, but I'd give 'em a shot.

One of the coolest things we happened upon was a gorgeous creole wedding street parade. The bride and groom were stunning in their white gown and caftan and the guests were colorfully done up in gowns, tuxes, hats, parasols, and the like. Their individual sparklers cast a lovely glow upon the entire affair as they strutted down the steps and out onto the street for their 1/2 mile parade. What a joy to witness!!!

We could not and you should not pass up coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde. They are hard to miss in the heart of the French Market on the Esplanade near the river. The magic of those fried pillows of dough literally covered with powdered sugar will send you to heaven, along with their chicory based coffee. Yum. This is a don't miss when visiting - everybody goes here and it feels crowded, but so what?? Cafe du Monde @ www.cafedumonde.com.

Lastly, we stopped into The Spotted Cat Music Club (www.spottedcatmusicclub.com) on Frenchman Street. There are loads of choices here, but the washboard jazz group drew us in. We stayed for their Friday night line-up and enjoyed VERY close personal space with strangers from around the country. Great music, cheap beer, and a lively evening.

Whew... and that's only Friday!!

Halloween Saturday belonged to Zach & Sierra with their planned itinerary... incognito of course.






First stop was Hex Witch Witchery for some psychic readings (www.hexwitch.com) and shopping in a darling shop on Decatur. Candles, books, incense, jewelry, and more here for your other-worldly needs. Zach and Sierra both loved their readings, by the way. Next stop was the Museum of Death (www.museumofdeath.net). Now I was a bit nervous about making this pit stop, but to say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. This 'personal collection turned museum' held a fascination for murder and death with exhibits of Charles Manson, The Hillside Strangler, John F. Kennedy, serial killer artwork and hand-written letters, morgue photos and films, and mortuary instruments. Fascinating, really truly... but not for the faint of heart I'd guess. We lunched at the Napoleon House (www.napoleonhouse.com) and had the best muffalettas of our lives. Thick salami with cheese and the tangiest olive salad on a hearty bread. Great ice-cold beer on tap and courteous service here - great lunch. We wandered the French Quarter and sampled a bit here and there enjoying the absinthe frappes (and old-lady boobs) at Jean Lafitte's Old Absinthe House (www.ruebourbon.com/oldabsinthehouse) and the classic ambiance at May Baily's House. This Victorian-inspired locale (in the old Storyville) was once a brothel, and the red velveteen furnishings aptly depict the old ground floor of a madam's residence. They have no website but you can find them at 415 Dauphine Street in the French Quarter. We spent a few hours here during a rainstorm and found it to be a charming stop. Drinks only!

I loved stopping into the Cathedral located at the top of Jackson Square. The St. Louis Cathedral was originally built in 1720, and the bell tower from 1815 tolls every hour on the hour beautifully. The interior is magnificent, and the exterior is one of the most photographed sites in all of New Orleans. Tours are available and Mass is celebrated daily. This is a thriving parish in the heart of the city. Check out their website at www.stlouiscathedral.org. It is an inspired beauty.




Dinner can best be described thus: a fantastically delicious po-boy prepared by a nasty local guy (who hates sandwiches) at the Verti-Mart corner market. If you're looking for any kind of recommendation, we suggest you decide what you want before you walk in the store and be prepared to give your order directly. Then wait patiently for some serious delish. The food is fantastic, but gentility is just not here. We ate on the street in the rain just across from one of the most gruesomely haunted sites in all of New Orleans -  La Laurie Mansion on Royal Street. Zach regaled us with tales of the murderous history as the rain spattered our costumes. Eerie....

We finished the evening at Mag's 940 - a local favorite right next to our Bed & Breakfast. Recommended by Bob and Michelle, this neighborhood watering hole was loaded with personality. The bartenders were witty and quick, the beer was cold, and the hurricanes were better than anything uptown. If you dare visit - www.mags940bar.com.

And on to Sunday... Jeff had reserved a wonderful culinary bike tour for this day but the rain interrupted our plans. Taking the unplanned itinerary can sometimes be such a joy, and it was this day. We stopped into the Louisiana State Museum (www.crt.state.la.us/louisiana-state-museum) to view exhibits on the U.S. Mint and New Orleans' favorite son Louis Armstrong. This man can plan and he can sing, but there were quite a few things I didn't know about Louis. Perhaps you knew that he feasted on beans, beans, beans for most of his life because he said they favored his constitution.





This FREE museum was accessible and interesting. We ventured on to the Cabildo (www.louisianastatemuseum.org) for more on Louisiana's vibrant history. Right next door on Jackson Square is the Presbytere (www.louisianastatemuseum.org) with a wonderful exhibit downstairs depicting Hurricane Katrina and her aftermath. Upstairs you'll find a Mardi-Gras exhibit that has gorgeous gowns and trinkets. We would't have any of these if it hadn't been raining and we loved them.






My favorite meal (by far) had us noshing on char-grilled oysters, redfish beignets, and alligator po-boys at the Royal House Oyster Bar (www.royalhouserestaurant.com). The service was compellingly attentive and friendly. This house was packed but you couldn't tell by the gracious service. Fresh food served with grace - Yum City. 

We stopped through the French Quarter Market and did a little snacking and shopping and people-watching. Luckily I had on my Drew Brees jersey so everyone admired our spirit as he threw for an ungodly number of yards and seven (7) touchdowns. Wow. NOLA loves them some Drew Brees!

Our dinner was pretty spectacular too as we started at Cafe Amelie (www.cafeamelie.com) settled into a shady courtyard hidden smack-dab in the middle of the all the hubbub in the French Quarter. We started with hot tea, a few cocktails, and a 9-layer torte that knocked us over with flavor - mild citrus and temptingly moist. Wow. Dessert first and then over to the Crescent City Brewery which I will not review with you because of their soggy fries. There's better beer everywhere in NOLA, believe me. 

Nighttime shenanigans continued at Mag's 940 again near our hotel. Come on in ... loads of costumes for the Day of the Dead and a Sideshow to boot. Here's where it got the craziest. I can only say again that some things you see are better left unseen. The Squidling Brothers Sideshow Carnivolution was playing. They have a website of their very own (www.squidlingbrothers.com). You can check this out if you really want to know. 

And Monday - New Orleans would not be New Orleans without a trip to a cemetery. We were withing a walking mile of St. Roch's Cemetery and were not disappointed with our visit. Walking through a few neighborhoods with remnants of Katrina still marked out front was a bit sad.







And the grey skies overhead contributed to the eerie (but wonderful) feel at St. Roch's.











I took this pic because my great-grandmother's name was Imhoff and this cemetery was originally a German-immigrant cemetery. 



This Marine group was preparing for a funeral and 21-gun salute. 

We stopped into St. Roch's Market on our way back to our B & B and were totally stoked with the choices - Korean, Creole, fresh fish, crepes, smoothies, cocktails, and more. Great little local market with an uptown vibe. Fresh and fun. Check them out at www.strochmarket.com. 

If you are headed to New Orleans, and have any questions - just ask. It's a great vibrant busy exciting and fun city to wander through. There's a seedy side to NOLA too but just like any other big city you may visit. If you stay at Elysian Fields Inn, please tell them that Deb and her family from Arizona sent ya. 

Bye-Bye Y'all.
Deb :)