Thursday, March 6, 2014
I read two books in February - both children's literature. I'm going to stop apologizing, and you should start taking notes about what your kids should read.
A teacher at school to find out that I had never read The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. BFF Erica was also totally shocked! They both told me they loved reading it aloud to their students, and after finishing it, I can totally see why. It'd be a great bedtime story for elementary school kids as DiCamillo writes in ways that charm and engage the listener. When she pauses to tell you something in the story, she stops and says, "Dear reader," and it's so very charming. Despereaux is the sweetest brave little mouse you will ever meet. And I'm not totally crazy about stories with animal protagonists, but I loved it!
A Long Walk to Water is the story of two youngsters in the South Sudan - one today and one "Lost Boy." I think because I'm familiar with stories like A Long Way Gone, I didn't find it as surprising as some other teachers who read it. We used it for our sixth grade literature circles around "Courageous Characters," and it's perfect for that. It is also very accessible social justice literature that easily expands world view for students. I like thoughtful literature choices, and this one is certainly thoughtful. I'm glad it wandered into our classroom libraries because we are having a grand time working it into classrooms.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
It was 100% an accident that we were in New Orleans during Carnival. The Mardi Gras parties start weeks before Mardi Gras (today! Happy Mardi Gras!) and so we got to experience small samplings of Carnival while we were there.
By far one of our favorite parts was checking out the decorations. They look beautiful with the sun shining on them and sparkly at night, but it's much easier to capture the purple, green and yellow during the day. I'm partial to all things purple.
In the French Market Jennie and I each bought a mask. We didn't do any partying, but now we're both set with gorgeous masks that cost less than $4 each. It's hanging in my closet and makes me smile each time I see it.
On Saturday night, we really intended to see the parade through the French Quarter. We went to a great New Orleans museum in the afternoon and learned about the aftermath of Katrina and the history of Mardi Gras, so we were all ready for our first parade with our historical foundations. We got our drinks, saved our square of pavement, and we started to wait. And wait.
An hour and a half after the parade was scheduled to start, we had to surrender to our need for po'boys. From the balcony of the restaurant we saw a little bit of the parade, but it was pretty short. We missed almost all of it while we paid the bill. Bourbon Street was FULL of revelers that night, but the walk down the street back to our hotel was enough fun for us! We just kept laughing that we accidentally scheduled our trip during Carnival, and then we ate some King Cake. Happy Mardi Gras!
Monday, March 3, 2014
Staying in the French Quarter in New Orleans meant we were getting ready to walk...a lot. NOLA doesn't have a traditional public transportation system that you use as a tourist unless you want to take a streetcar to other parts of town. We took taxis when we arrived Saturday and when we left Tuesday, and other than two streetcar rides, we ONLY walked for four days. With temperatures in the 70s, it was tough to complain about being outside to enjoy the temperatures.
We stayed at Lafitte Guest House on the calm end of Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. The first night the house was full, and our partying neighbors woke us up in the middle of the night. But the next two nights we had the whole third floor to ourselves, and we loved our overall stay. It was quiet and peaceful, and we could watch the Olympics at the end of the day. Sleeping was one of our favorite parts of the trip probably.
We actually did TWO walking tours while we were there (and on the same day, boy were we tired at the end!). The Saint Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter is too pretty to not take a million pictures of it. The center photo was taken on Saturday which was the coldest day of our visit.
Jennie and I were obsessed with all the colors of private homes in the French Quarter. A purple house? Yes, please!
We walked through and by the French Market several times. I loved this statue of Joan of Arc - or as one tour guide called it "Joanie on a Pony." HA.
Jennie took this photo overlooking the Mississippi River during our walking tour of the French Quarter. Our second tour was "Scandals" themed.
Jennie's married name on a street sign and our favorite horse (or is he a mule?) drawn tours. $90 for a 1/2 hour wasn't cost effective for the two of us, so we tried to listen to the tour guides whenever they drove by.
On Monday we took the streetcar to the Garden District. After some shopping (and snacking) on Magazine Street, I found a self-guided tour on my iPhone, and we started to really explore the BEAUTIFUL homes. The Garden District was the American "answer" to the French Quarter. Above left is the house where the Manning boys grew up. Duh, I love me some Peyton Manning. Jennie is standing in front of the Opera Guild House. We almost took the official tour, but we were tired.
Above left is the home where Jefferson Davis died and in the bottom right hand corner, Sandra Bullock's home! It's also significant because it was designed with a staggered front to maximize the amount of sunlight each day.
On Monday alone I figured that we walked about seven miles total. Hard to believe it was only two weeks ago, and I'm home today with another snow day (number six of the year). Though I have been telling everyone who will listen, I'm having a much easier time with winter dragging on because I got a sunshine-y reset in New Orleans. Seventy degrees and walking outside with your pal will do amazing things for your soul.
Friday, February 28, 2014
Jennie has been anxiously waiting posts from New Orleans, but man oh man, did I manage to take a lot of photos while we were there for four days. But today's her birthday, so I'm glad I got a few together for her! Instead of breaking apart all the fun day by day, let's do it by theme. And let's start with the most important part of any vacation, what we ate.
Sometimes we planned ahead and asked for recommendations, and other times we relied on Yelp to tell us what was best within a couple blocks. Cafe Amelie was a Yelp find, and one of my favorite meals we had while we were there. It's awesomeness was amplified by how hungry we were after a morning of plane travel. We waited about a half hour for a table, and I managed to spill coffee all over my lap. #classicVictoria
Once we had a seat, I promptly ordered a cocktail (a twist on the French 75 - I don't hate gin after all! Or maybe it was hidden by the champagne?). Jennie and I ate the most gorgeous sandwiches and caught up in the sunshine. We were definitely missing our third pal who was snowed in on the east coast and couldn't meet us.
Later that night we wandered around Bourbon Street waiting for a parade to start with beers and hurricanes. It was my first hurricane and several recommendations told us to drink them at Pat O'Briens. So we did!
I also drank about every Abita beer I could find while we were there, and a couple of Tin Roof local beers as well. Our last night in town, we stumbled off the beaten path looking for craft cocktails with the locals at Bar Tonique. But much to Kip's never ending delight, I'm still a beer girl at heart - always love trying the local brews!
Of course we ate beignets at the "world famous" Cafe Du Monde. I'm happy to report that the ones here in Kansas City are just as good! We waited in line for a table and each ate almost three beignets. A group of women next to us each had one beignet a piece. What's the point really?
My favorite desserts were from Sucre. My dad and Tracy recommended it, and they got their recommendation from Oprah, so Jennie and I were game to try it. It's Carnival - or King Cake season - in New Orleans, and I took every opportunity to enjoy a slice of the delicious danish style cake. Jennie had the gelato, and we both carried home King Cakes.
I delivered mine to Kip as a thank you for watching Belle. He shared it at work where I am surprised to report it wasn't a huge hit. (The Rice Krispies treats I made the next day with peanut butter? Gone in ten minutes. GO FIGURE.) I also loved the macarons at Sucre - it was the second time I have had them! Beyond Sucre, I also had a banana fosters crossed with bread pudding that hit the spot our last night there - I was in heaven!
There were so many other fine meals: bbq shrimp po'boys (which mostly just means butter not bbq), fried green tomatoes (the breading was legit!), red beans & rice, gumbo, fried chicken and wood fired pizza. I think I even had a small sampling of jambalaya. We never got around to the turtle and alligator, but I guess you need a reason to go back?
Happy birthday Jennie!
Thursday, February 27, 2014
The theme for last weekend was very much about loving other people's kids. On Friday night, Mom, Kip and I attended a fundraiser for YMI Midwest. I was involved with youth ministry at Village Presbyterian from 2003 to 2009 when I moved to Virginia, and my former boss is doing great work with YMI here in the Kansas City area. I get it - youth need all the support they can get as they navigate the halls of middle and high school - and their youth ministers need all the support they can get as they support teenagers.
The event was fantastic because we got to learn more about YMI Midwest, and I got to catch up with the parents of so many of my former youth group kids. It was at the home of my first ever youth group director, and it's crazy to think that I have been connected with some of the adults at the event since I was a very tall 14-year-old. They have taken great care of me for almost 17 years, and I loved seeing so many dear church friends.
On Saturday the fun, fundraising and festivities continued with a fundraiser for CASA in Jackson, Wyandotte and Johnson counties. We've learned a lot about the foster system in the Kansas City area lately, and a lot of it is heartbreaking. Doing what's right for kids can be a tough, long, journey. But the court appointed special advocate (CASA) can make a huge difference, and that's why Allison and I went out to support them at the Flights & Kites benefit.
Flights & Kites is hosted each year by my pals over at Kappa Alpha Theta and takes places at the downtown airport. It's a nice event because you can wear a dress or jeans (it's in an airport hangar), sample a bunch of wine flights and catch up with some friends. The food was catered by Accurso's, and I'm pretty sure I want to go to eat there VERY soon. It was all delicious! We bought raffle tickets to support CASA while we were there, and I'm the proud winner of four Royals dugout tickets after the event. I don't feel like I ever win anything, but I am so super excited to have another Royals game on the schedule for this spring.
Sunday the theme of other people's kids continued with this very moving sermon at church about loving all the children. We wrapped up the inspiring weekend with a baby shower for my friend Anne, and I was reminded that it really does take a village. I'm the product of good parenting, but also kind teachers and faithful youth ministers. Let's do stuff for the kids, okay?