Tuesday, September 28, 2010

happiness lists

Okay, I have a much better peaceful calm today.
I must say, I did not practice yoga or meditate or even read a good book yesterday. I stayed in pjs. I went out for a coffee and that's it. Meh. Sometimes you have to let it all out, or else it turns into cancer (just sayin).

But before I let my whininess get out of control I wrote down a list of things that I'm grateful for that even Oprah would be proud of.

What i'm grateful for right now:
last fall in Arnold Arboretum, Boston '09
every day with Ben, it makes it all worth it
my basil plant 
daily yoga practice 
time to read for fun 
\ my camera
my health and that of my loved ones 
\ online communities and social media 
feeling safe in my neighborhood 
phone calls with old friends 
cheap candles that smell like autumn 
long days of sunshine 
yelp elite status 
living near starbucks 
saturdays- a whole day with Ben!
bike rides 
having time and a bigger kitchen to bake in

cupcakes October '09
I also decided to write a list of things that make me happy and that I can turn to in NOLA when i'm feelin down (yah, it's repetitive- i don't care because i love lists!):
b yoga
b time with Ben
b a good book
b walks outside  
baking something new
calling a friend
b riding my bike
b dancing
b sending letters
photography
b chocolate
helping others/making connections
b the tv show scrubs
b making lists....
flowers from Gramme B. Dec '09

Thanks to everyone who read my holiday heartache post and reached out to me. I appreciate it! Ben and I will welcome anyone who wants to over to our house for Thanksgiving and I'll cook up a huge meal! Also, we laughed last night about how fun Christmas was a few years ago when we had to stay alone in Boston because of my job :P 
Hope you're making peace with your "let-downs" today!

Monday, September 27, 2010

holiday heartache

With the start of fall I've been missing New England even more than I did when we first moved. I didn't even think that was possible. Maybe it's because as you settle into New Orleans you find all the problems of living here weighing down on your daily life. Or maybe it's because I miss pumpkin latte's, apple picking at the farm we've been going to for years, sweaters, playing with friends without sweating, changing leaves...okay, i'm not going to go on. You get the picture.
In New Orleans there aren't the normal seasons that I'm used to. As one person put it, the seasons here are: summer, football, holidays, and more summer.

{I should note though that we're having a cold-front today and it was in the low 80's (60's when Ben biked to school in the early AM!). I turned up the AC and put on jeans, pretending it was autumn, but then went outside and regretted the long pants.}

Anyway, I've been trying to look on the bright side of living someplace with a tropical climate- mainly that I won't be too cold in the winter. Although, Nola did get into the 30s last winter and it actually snowed! Southerners also get to experience more sun year round! But seeing photos of my friends in hats with the red and yellow leaves behind them makes my heart ache. So, I've really been looking forward to the next time I'll get to go home. Or Boston. Or New Hampshire. Any home. Basically, the North.

But then, we found out that we're staying right here for Thanksgiving. Okay, I can skip that holiday. I heard that flight rates are up the highest they've been in years for that weekend and flying to/from NOLA can be ridiculous anyway.
Maybe they televise the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade down here. (I did find a Red Sox bar- although it's too smoky for me to stay in for more than 5 minutes). I have worked twelve hour shifts on Thanksgiving before and it's hard but doable. I miss my moms turnips and spinach though. Oh well, I'll write in my journal about how I'm thankful for getting to spend time with Ben and look forward to my favorite holiday season.

I knew holidays would be tough. My dad lives in NJ. My mom and bro in CT. Ben's mom and bro in NH. Ben's dad in Kentucky/NH. His grandparents in various parts of MA/FL. My grandparents in CT/FL. It certainly is complicated. But, we spend Christmas at my family house in Greenwich and had planned to this year too.

Now i've found out that it is too expensive for us to both fly to CT for Christmas. My family is selling the only house that has been a family home for as long as I've lived and I'll miss the last Christmas at it. Ben won't see his family. I won't see my family. My maternal grandma and aunt are both ill and i won't see them. Maybe we'll skip the tree too. OMG, do they even have Christmas trees down here?!?!

Honestly, I took on a lot moving down here. Leaving everyone I love. Losing out on my doctoral degree. Needing to find a job where I have no connections. Knowing no one and having no ways to meet them since i'm jobless and petty-cashless. The darned lack of seasons.
But I guess I didn't think through possibly not seeing my friends and family for years.
I'm really trying to be "positive", "look on the bright side", and enjoy the present. But life is throwin me some curve-balls and I'm just about exhausted trying to swing at 'em.

That means something good must be coming around the corner, right? Maybe a fantastic job counseling at-risk youth and their families? Or baking cupcakes? Maybe winning the lottery (that i don't play). Maybe flights will suddenly become cheaper and easier!!
We'll see. But I have hopes that I'm gonna be smiling again soon.

Monday, September 20, 2010

life's a beach

MA '09 ben and me


Ben and I are beach people. We just are. I'm not sure where this came from on my side as I was raised on the Long Island Sound and no one in my family is a big beacher. My grandma likes to get breakfast and sit on the beach with a sweater on cool mornings. My mom likes her pool club that has the beach behind it. But, I'm not sure I can remember going to be a beach with either of my parents (maybe with my mom when i was a toddler). 
Cape Cod Aug '09 with my cousins
But, both Ben and I have always loved everything about the beach. He jogs, swims so far out he looks like a tiny dot, and maybe sits still for five minutes tops. I read and play in the water or talk with friends. Maybe it's because we're both from New England where a lot of the culture has to do with the ocean. In Boston, our summer weekends were spent at the beach and we like to get up as early as possible and stay as late as possible.

NH July '10
Even before we moved to New Orleans one of the first things we asked was where the best beaches are. No one had a good answer. What we heard was that we could drive to Florida for a weekend to experience the beach there. Nola is right on the Mississippi River and the Pontchtrain but, those ain't beachin places. A friend of my uncles even invited us to use his Florida beach house whenever we wanted! So, we took to the internet for a beach search. I asked on the Yelp community. We googled. Finally, we got in the car and just drove. What we found was that by driving 90minutes we could find the ocean but the intense heat and the oil spill meant that we were the only people out there. In the middle of July and August it was so hot that after 45minutes stuck outside in the sun my vision got blurry, I saw black dots, and no amount of ice or ice-water helped. This was not the beach we love. 

Now that it is almost the end of September and we've been southerners for almost three months we have found where to go for the beach. We continue to drive the 90minute trip to Mississippi and stop when we see sand. 

I must say, it's not the North. The first time we went there were stingrays spawning so you couldn't go in the water without the fear of being stuck with one of their sharp tails. The next time we were told that sharks will come up to the shore and when the mud from the bottom is kicked up they can't see and will bite your legs. This past weekend Ben kicked a jellyfish and got stung while swimming. He chose not to tell me this until the night when we were safely at home and it was still stinging. I don't go in the water here. There are no waves because some islands break them. The water is brown looking- maybe it's the oil? And last but not least the water is hot. Like as hot as my grandparents' hot tub after its been running a minute. But, it's a beach. I've learned that even in September it is too hot to sit on the beach in Mississippi for too long, loads of ice are necessary, and you must hydrate even when you don't want to. It's not perfect, but it will have to do until we can visit my grandparents and uncle in Florida or head back up to the North. 

For all of you up there in NH and MA and CT, here's some photos of our last Mississippi beach trip. 

pelican

looks like the bird is on the roof

little friend

Thursday, September 16, 2010

baking bida

So, it's no secret that I like to bake. I always have. In high school my dad used to give me his credit card all the time so that I could go to the store to make a new recipe. I still remember the time I used his alcohol to make some orange-liquor dessert and all the neighbors came over. I'm sure it was not good. But, they all smiled and tried it. I definitely need some brave neighbors now to help me indulge in one of my favorite pastimes. Ben's classmates are getting as many as I can give away :)

In graduate school, baking became something that I could do for myself to break up long hours of reading or writing papers. There is something so therapeutic in preparing good food- but cooking will be for another blog posting- today is about baking. Muffins- a food that can be healthy and comes in its own little wrapper so that it can travel anywhere- are one of my favorite things to make. Which is why it was so exciting when I found my 500 best muffin recipes book. People at school probably got pretty tired of the many muffins I brought in. I really love muffins.

Some of my go-to favorites that I whip up pretty often are oatmeal scones (everyone I know has gotten these from me), chocolate covered pretzels (something Ben likes!), chocolate peanut butter pie, and all kinds of cookies including my favorite- cherry-chocolate chunk (mmm).

Since moving to New Orleans, however, I have been trying out some new desserts. I made a vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting and cookie dough hidden inside it. I made mini pumpkin breads with fall scenes on them (pumpkin, leaves, etc.).
pumpkin breads
And after finding Bakerella! online I decided I would try my hand at cakeballs and then cakepops. My first attempt were chocolate inside with chocolate-mint outside and chocolate inside with peanubutter outside. I made these to take to Michigan for a big family reunion. I think they turned out pretty good, but I should probably try something one time first before bringing them to give to others!
my first cake balls
After I made these cake balls and they worked out I moved on to cake pops. In reality, cake pops are easier to make because you can dip them in the candy coating with a stick. Look at my first attempt at cake pops:

mmmm
cake pops!

Okay, so nothing amazing but they taste pretty darn good. Soon I'm going to try making characters and shapes out of them. I'm just not sure what I should start with. 

Today I realized that my butter pecan cupcakes with caramel icing needed something on top. So, I used candy molds that Michael's arts & crafts stores sell for $1+something to make some shell candy. For my first attempt I used some leftover red candy melts. I'm not completely happy with how they look, but luckily I have some other colors to mess around with. 
shell candies

Then I got crazy and used these molds that are supposed to be for putting candy shapes around pretzel rods. They have been sitting in my pantry for months calling to me. But, I had no pretzel rods. So, I just poured in some leftover candy without the pretzels. hehe. what a mess.
not sure what to do with these

Sorry for no photos of the cupcakes. I haven't gotten around to finishing them yet and it is too warm in my kitchen (i ran the dryer, silly me). So, I'll have to give an update later. 

Tomorrow i'll be using fondant to make little hearts on top of bigger cookie hearts. I will finally get to use the food-pens that I've had in my fridge by writing on the fondant! I'm pretty excited.

My cousin Lauryn usually puts a question at the end of her blog. 
So: What are some of your favorite things to bake?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

some judgements on New Orleans

Well, I've been in New Orleans for a few months now and I am ready to make some statements about what i've heard, felt, tasted, and seen:


  • the summers are hot hot hot!
  • if you're in a window seat on the streetcar you may be hit by a branch as it passes a tree. 
  • there are lots of cockroaches, but people here call them palmetto bugs.
  • the streets are so torn up it's almost impossible to walk without stubbing a toe and your car will need new tires every 2 months.
  • there are sharks and stingrays in the gulf water, and the water is hot!
  • you're still in New Orleans if you cross the Mississippi river, which only takes about 30 seconds.
  • the vegetarian food has meat in it and everything here is fried.
  • southern magnolia trees smell so sweet when they bloom.
  • everyone either calls me ma'am or baby.
  • po boys are what the north calls subs (and new orleans natives would be outraged at that statement).
  • there is jazz/blues/etc in almost every bar every night.
  • people eat fried alligator on a stick.
  • so many people walk around with large drinks in their hand- soda, daiquiri, or maybe beer.
  • the libraries have not been restored since Katrina, but they're trying.
  • the city is a big basin for rain and the streets flood easily.
  • the thunderstorms are impressive.
  • the whole city is crazy for the Saints.
  • an avocado is called an alligator pear, a sidewalk is a banquette, a closet a locker, a median the neutral ground, and free stuff (like a cookie with your coffee) is a lagniappe. 
  • the street Tchoupitoulas is Chop. 
  • people love life. they really do live life to its fullest. and i love that!
So, whatddya think? Seem like a place you'd like to live? 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

talk derby to me

Okay okay, i know, i have not written on this thing in over a month. but, in my defense, i was very honest in the beginning in saying that this may not go anywhere. i'm just finding it hard to be motivated to type up what's going on in my life and send it off to the world to read. (it's awkward)

But i have to tell you about something i experienced last night: THE BIG EASY ROLLERGIRLS
Yes, i went to the roller derby. Ben was invited by the league doctor who is a part of the family doctor interest group at school. I had heard about this and was excited to check it out!

Now, for those of you who think this is about girls skating around in their undies slamming into each other, you're mostly correct. haha. But, it is a sport and there are rules to the game. There are different positions on the team: Jammer, Pivot, and Blocker. There are rules about who can do what when and even penalties and scores. 

Let me explain a little: Each time the girls take off to try to score is called a Jam (love the name!). The Jammers are the girls who move through the pack and try to score by passing opposing teammates, the pivot(ers) are one to a team and direct the pack by setting the pace, and the blockers make sure that their jammer can get through while the opposing jammer gets slammed to the floor. You can tell who is who by their helmets- Jammers get stars, Pivoters get a strip, all the rest are plain/stickered. 

All this, on roller-skates. It's so exciting!

Once we figured it all out and we could pick out our team and cheer them along. Actually, the Big Easy Rollergirls have their own cheerleaders, known as the PussyFooters, who don a lot of sparkly pink and get the crowd going. There were also two announcers- Skip 4-Play who was wearing a large white pimp suit and Reverend Psych Ward who had on some kind of cape- to explain the action and make some noise. 

There was a half-time band (J.D. Hill and the Jammers):
And the rolling Elvi who threw tons of candy at the audience: 

These characters were all so amusing. Even the skating referees were dressed up and had interesting names: Henry Roll-ins, S'aint N.O. Lady, Scoot McGoot! And they got taken out almost as much as the rollergirls! Last night we got to see the Crescent Wenches (New Orleans) versus the Red Stick All-Stars (Baton Rouge). The girls on both teams have great monikers. 
Here's a few:
Anti Em, Bang Crosby, Tchoup'er, Vieux Careen, Tabitcha, Tank Goodness, Moxie Balboa, Turbo Tyek, and Brat O'Tat. haha. 

And one of the best parts is that Nola Brewing Co 
(our fav beer and our friend Dylan's company) was served and had cute fliers up: 

Sorry for the bad photo quality, but at least you get to see the girls in action: 

In the end, the New Orleans Crescent City Wenches won by a landslide!!
Wondering if they have rollerderby girls in every city?