17 June 2013

I feel like a movie star!

"Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen." - Conan O'Brien

Hello all!
I just wanted to let you know that I was featured on a stunning blog, penned by a wonderful friend of mine who came to visit me in NOLA last week! Not only does her camera have magical properties, she is one of the most energizing and fun people I know! Check me out here, and take a peek at the rest of her clever meanderings as well!

Have a wonderful Monday!

07 June 2013

What I did on my Summer Vacation (Spoiler: the answer is - eat and drink too much)

Vacations are necessities, not luxuries. - Linda Bloom

Before the madness of summer school begins next week, Husband and I decided we needed a little road trip to fulfill our vacation quota for the season. We hadn't been up to Kentucky to see family in a while and also needed to stop off in our old, Mississippi stomping grounds to pick up some equipment for Husband's summer research.

First, we drove to Kentucky (12 hours, wah-waaaah), where we enjoyed food and drinks with good friends and family. 

On Sunday, my family drove to Eminence, Kentucky to have some nerd fun at the Kentucky Highland Renaissance Festival 

This festival is set in 13th century Scotland, complete with King Robert the Bruce, traditional celebrations, bards, jousts, and comedy shows. My whole family attended as did my very best friend from high school. All in all, an excellent reunion!

Wrapping the ugliest maypole ever.

Fun, family-friendly mud show

It ain't faire until I've got a turkey leg!

It ain't faire without a mug of cider and a rocking pig!

That's my kick-ass brother. We both got the costuming gene.

Long live the Bruce!

Sir Tristan of Scotland (most importantly wearing the fleur de lis)

After 3 days in Kentucky, it was time to move on. We headed south to Oxford, Mississippi, where Husband and I spent 10 pretty much awesome years studying and working at the University of Mississippi and meeting genuinely amazing people we very seriously consider family. Surprisingly, I didn't take ANY pictures of my time with friends! I guess I was so tied up in conversation that I just didn't think about it (it couldn't have had anything to do with wine...). I should just mention the wonderful places we visited and recommend:

            - City Grocery - Best place in town for a martini on the balcony!
            - Ajax Diner - Recently voted "Best of the Best," 'nuff said. GO THERE.
            - Boure - I was really impressed with the big, new venue for this old favorite!
            - The Cellar - go there if you want to watch 12 year old frat boys call eachother "Bra"
            - Square Pizza - go there after an evening on the town for the best pizza ever!
            - Bottletree Bakery - Best ginger scone and homemade granola! (and everything else!)
            - The Blind Pig - Go there for good live music and pool!
            - Volta Taverna - Go there for Mediterranean cuisine and delicious margaritas! (seriously)

From Oxford, we headed into the Mississippi Delta for some archaeology and music in Clarksdale, home of the Blues!

First, we had to get some work done. By "work," I mean I took some pretty pictures and then returned to the car to read about zombies while Husband set up a digital, globally oriented grid at the site.

Scenic View from the top of an Indian Mound

Husband gets his coordinates set!
After checking into our downtown Clarksdale hotel, we walked around in search of libation. First, we had some snacks and drinks at the Stone Pony (I'd never been there) a casual pizza-and-beer place with excellent movie-themed trivia on Wednesday nights!

After that, we wandered over to Morgan Freeman's blues club, Ground Zero. I have to say, I've always loved this place, but it's gotten really touristy and the band playing put me in the mind of Tropical Isle, not the true blues capitol of the world.

I forgot my coozie. #hatetouchingcoldthings

We look good, but the band sounds awful!
We didn't stay at Ground Zero long. Determined to find better music, we wandered towards Red's juke joint. There was no music that night, but Red was there and regaled us with tales of celebrities and annoying tourists. It was pretty awesome and authentic, hence I took no photos, obviously.

After our night in Clarksdale, it was time to head home. But not before one final, and very important, pit stop: The Jim Henson Museum in Leland, Mississippi!

Most awesome photo op ever!
The Jim Henson Museum is very small, but packed full of memorabilia, actual original Muppet props, as well as biographic info and photos of a young Jim Henson, growing up in Mississippi.

Original puppets from Spirits of the Cloud Forest


Me and Kermie!

The museum is magical, and it was a perfect way to end our trip!

Now we're back home, but, of course, our adventures aren't over! I have lots of trouble to get into soon, so stay tuned!

Breaking into Summer: Crawfish Extravaganza!

Summer afternoon - Summer afternoon... the two most beautiful words in the English language. - Henry James

To celebrate the beginning of summer (well, weather, anyway), good friends J and D hosted a gigantic crawfish boil and invited all the best people (and dogs) in the neighborhood.

I had a little double-boiling accident with my petit four icing, so I showed up to the party with a tray full of ugly and a grimace, but, it turned out all my anxiety was for naught! Everyone loved the little cakes, even if they did look like a 3 year old made them!

Ugly, yet delicious Petit Fours!
Sangria in the shade with my best girlies!

Friendship Photos!
Roxie stayed in the middle of the circle for maximum foot-petting potential!
Three rounds of boil later, we all had teary eyes and burning lips, but big smiles on our faces!

And now for the main event: Yum!!!

Happy summer, y'all!

A new anniversary tradition!

It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.  ~Rita Rudner

Just a couple of weeks ago, it was our 4th/14th anniversary (4 years ago, we got married on our 10th anniversary)! I can't believe it!

For the second time, Husband and I decided to spend our anniversary on Pensacola Beach, at the luxurious Holiday Inn resort! We can only go for one night, so we try to cram in as much excellent food/drink/beach/pool time as possible!

We arrived and checked in to our hotel, then immediately tossed away our shoes and strolled down the beach to The Dock for a Miami Vice (half pina colada-half strawberry daiquiri)!

After that, it was time to hit the sand!

I'm on a beach!

Beach hooping is hard work!

Husband goes for a swim!
 After all that hard work, we needed some dinner! We headed back down the beach to our favorite casual dining establishment, appropriately named Crabs on the Beach!

After gorging ourselves on grilled seafood, fresh salads, and margaritas, we strolled for a bit to appreciate the skyline.

We can't wait to ride the ferris wheel next year!

There was loads more beach and pool time the next morning!


Nerds on the beach!

Hanging out at the hotel bar

Lazy River pool and hot tubs are my favorite!

It was ALMOST a perfect trip...until this happened....

Don't worry! A friendly surfer-dude with a big truck pulled us out!

Well, nothing can ever be absolutely perfect. It was a wonderful way to celebrate all our amazing journeys together. I'm so glad this is our new anniversary tradition!

20 May 2013

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.
                - His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

This weekend, Husband and I were offered tickets to another amazing, decadent, and satiating event...no, not a fancy dinner gala! This time, we had the opportunity to hear His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak at Tulane University's 2013 Commencement ceremony.

Commencement took place in the Superdome! It was my first time inside, I'm somewhat ashamed to admit. Husband pointed out the disparity in my embarrassment meter, as I regularly and unabashedly tell people that I play Dungeons and Dragons...but I digress...The Superdome! It's so big! And confusing! And we sat WAY UP HIGH, so my pictures don't really do it a lot of justice.

Waiting for the ceremony to begin.
Is anyone else weirded out when they put dresses on chairs?

The procession. Also a good reference to how high up we were.

I should note that, while not represented in pictures, the speech given by Tulane president Scott Cohen was extremely moving. He emphasized the importance of hope in troubling times. His closing remarks had me all misty eyed. I paraphrase: Hope didn't die in Boston. It didn't die in Sandy Hook. It didn't die in Hurricane Sandy or Katrina, and it didn't die on Frenchman Street.

This was the only reference today (or really in many days) to the Mother's Day shootings here in New Orleans which has had me seriously thinking about violence and how we use language to categorize violent acts. This may seem cruel and simplified, but it's what I've come up with: If violence is perpetrated by a white person, it is a tragedy. If violence is perpetrated by a "brown" person, it is terrorism. And if violence is perpetrated by a black person, it is what? Expected? Street violence? Someone else's problem? These words are imbued with prejudice, as is our framework for thinking about violent crime. I don't know how to express how I feel about this problem, or how to solve it, but I will be seeking out people who may have the ideas or power to do so.

So, after the president's moving and thought provoking speech, there was a speech by a graduating doctoral student that was so contrived I wanted to gag. But, in the spirit of compassion and hope, I will refrain from publishing negative impressions here. Instead, I will move on to the words of the Dalai Lama himself.

His Holiness Speaks

First, let me say, that being a language teacher, while fulfilling and exciting, sometimes annoys the hell out of me. Case in point, His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama is, obviously, a second (or likely 3rd or 4th) English language speaker. Most of the beautiful quotes you edit into a waterfall photo to post on Facebook have been translated by professional interpreters and written in a way to make them more poetic. In real life, his English is halted, simplistic, and heavily-accented.

In many ways, I think hearing him speak is absolutely more powerful for exactly those reasons. He doesn't have (or need) complex grammar or excessive adjectives to express his teachings. Everything about his message is simple, smoothed down to the most basic of words: peace, trust, hope, patience, compassion. It's beautiful. It's powerful...

And it is completely outside my power to not try and pick apart his accent for ideas about how to help my Asian students with particular sounds. I can't stop recognizing patterns of language mistakes that my students make and immediately try and figure out why? how? It's so frustrating. Especially when you are trying to clear your mind to welcome a message of hope.

But I managed to still find the Dalai Lama's message. He began by talking about hope. Hope, he insists, leads to trust. If people can only trust each other, if they aren't afraid of each other, there can be peace. The only way, he says, we can really trust each other, is if we stop thinking that we are better or worse than other people. I paraphrase - Whenever I meet someone I think he is just a person, but so am I, so I am glad to meet him.

His Holiness encouraged students to not value their education too highly. Education alone is not enough, in fact, it can be dangerous. Education plus compassion leads to inner peace, which also allows people to trust each other and find peace.

It was very inspiring. You can watch the whole thing here (the Dalai Lama's speech begins at 5:30):

Afterward, Husband and I took a walk through the French Quarter and reflected on the idea of equalizing how we categorize people. It is amazing how much negativity we project onto the world without realizing it. In a matter of hours, we'd busted ourselves making snide comments about people's clothing, tourists' ignorance to local customs, even each other's choices for lunch - giant hamburgers from the Clover Grill...don't judge, we're not Buddhists.

So, we're going to focus on positive thinking this week. Hope, compassion, peace. I'll let you know next week how we do!

Here are some beautiful, professional photos of the event, borrowed from the Tulane University Facebook page:

His Holiness and Tulane President Scott Cohen Second Line into graduation

The Dalai Lama and Dr John, who also received an honorary degree
His Holiness speaks of hope, peace, and compassion

13 May 2013

Sippin' in Seersucker 2013! Another Extravaganza!!!

If you really want to make a friend, go to someone's house and eat with them...the people who give you their food give you their heart. - Cesar Chavez

Yes! It IS another post about a decadent night of exquisite food and drinks! What can I say? We live in an eating town and we are privileged to know some of the most excellent people who invite us to amazing events!

Last week I made matching seersucker shirts for our good friends, T and Z.

As payment for sewing, they generously gave us tickets to Sippin' in Seersucker! We went last year too and it's a damn good time! Lots of delicious treats from local restaurants, generously poured craft cocktails, amazing live music, AND a costume competition! It's a fundraiser for the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and hosted at the Canal Place Shops (read: the fancy mall).

So, here's our evening!

We started eating immediately, of course!

Grits and Debris from Mother's Restaurant

Buffalo Trace Old Fashioned!

Calamari Ceviche from...?

More friends arrived and the evening started hopping!

Let's eat all the things! Okay!
Undescribable and delicious science experiment from Root!

Kimchi Pancake with Pork Belly Hash from Booty's!

Rillettes (tasty!) on toast (stale brick) from Cleaver and Co!

For the seersucker competition, contestants really dialed it up this year! Our friend T was a finalist, but the evening was really all about the ladies in seersucker!

None of us were finalists, but we all looked like winners!

Seersucker Competition

The Bride - Yep! That's ALL seersucker!

The Winner! She made her dress herself!

 There was amazing live music by two bands (whose names I forgot to write down, oops - I blame the free cocktails)...

Hibiscus and Jalapeno Margarita from Bellocq

Awesome band! Yes, she is playing a washboard.

 It was a truly fabulous evening full of fun and the most wonderful friends you could hope to know!

Another amazing band! 

I managed to not eat ALL of these French Macaroons from Chicken Scratch!

 At the end of the night, there was just one more thing to do....take drunken photos in the parking garage! (Have no fear, 'twas not I who drove home)...

Last year, I made this green seersucker dress for the event.I didn't have the time or money to make a new dress this year, so I pulled out the old one. It's much too big! So, I took it in and decided to recreate a photo from Seersucker 2012 to casually mark my progress toward weightloss and fitness. Here are the before/after shots! Not too shabby!

Before - Cute Couple 2012

After - Smokin' Couple 2013

Before - May 2012

After - May 2013

Y'all probably get tired of me expressing how lucky I feel, but it's really true! Most of what makes my life exciting is directly the result of the incredible people who choose to share their adventures with me. Thank you all so much!