Sunday, December 30, 2007

A night out with the bro in New Orleans!

Well, my brother was here visiting for Christmas and it was his first time here since we moved here 4 years ago. So we had to take him out for a night in New Orleans last Saturday. So we hired a babysitter and off we went!

First stop Jacques-imos for dinner. I had never been myself but my hubby has always wanted to take me. He takes his buds there when they come into town to visit and they all rave about it every time. I finally got my chance and man have I been missing something awesome all this time! I couldn't stop saying, "Mmmmmm. That is SO GOOD!" It is one thing to be a visitor and to go crazy over the food down here, but after living here awhile you start to know what is REALLY GOOD! We each ordered an appetizer ($7.50 each and nice size portions) and took turns tasting them. They all rocked! We got the shrimp and alligator sausage cheesecake, fried green tomatoes with crawfish sauce and four huge grilled shrimp on top and the crab stuffed shrimp. All were incredible but the stuffed shrimp was our favorite.

For entrees, my hubby got some kind of fish and bro got the Grouper. I got the waiter's suggested entree - Fried chicken! I went all out and ordered my sides as cole slaw and mashed potatoes to round it out. Man, I don't eat fried chicken a lot but this was mouth watering! The coleslaw and mashed potatoes were so good too I couldn't decide which of the three to finish as it was all too much food for me. Price for my entree - $17.95. Both hubby and bro loved their fish dinners and mmmmmm'd with every bite! My brother said that was the perfect place to take an out of town visitor and just the type of place he wanted to go to. It is a winner!

The atmosphere is cool, the food is great and the prices are affordable. Go early or expect to wait. Short story: On our way out we overheard a woman tell the hostess that they had a party of 6. She said, "Six. Well, you aren't eating here tonight." The woman looked confused. The hostess said, "Honey, I got a 3 hour wait for parties of 6 or more ." The girl left very angry;-)

After dinner, we drove into the quarter. We parked at the Ritz Carlton because that is where we would be ending our night. We walked down to the Foundation Room which is a private club off the House of Blues. A friend put us on the list for the night and we enjoyed this uniquely decorated bar and relaxed awhile in the comfy seating area.

After a few drinks there we decided to take a walk around the quarter. The week before we spent the day down in the quarter with my parents and my mom was asking me where different celebrities live. Of course I never bothered to look up such info. So this time I looked up Brad Pitt's place (521 Governor Nicholas St.) and also found Nicholas Cage's address (11 40 Royal St.) So we did a walk by and stopped into the bar that I read Angelina frequents. We rang both of their doorbells for shits and giggles. It was kinda corny but we had fun.

After a short jaunt down Bourbon Street which my brother found disappointing and too college-like (he was looking for good blues music) we made our way back to the Ritz Carlton to watch Jeremy Davenport play Jazz music for free. This was the highlight of the night for my brother (other than Jacques-imos). My hubby fanagled a seat right up front by the stage with another couple who just sat down. He had the Maitre'd ask them if we could join them since it was a table for 6 and there was just two of them. The couple turned out to be visitor's in town for the Georgia/Hawaii Sugar Bowl game. She was the Alumni Director for Georgia and he worked for the Board of Regents at Georgia. They were very friendly and welcomed us. I ordered the Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert while the boys ordered way too many drinks and heckled Jeremy and the drummer. It was all good fun and Jeremy seemed cool with it - he is quite a character himself!

Then, I got way too tired. This mommy can't hang anymore. We said goodnight to our new friends the Andersons and wished them good luck at the game. I had us home by 1am and my brother graciously paid for the babysitter because he said he had a great time! Thanks bro! Nice having you here to visit too.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Thinking of the less fortunate

Yesterday, being Christmas, I thought of a lady and daughter who flittered through my life once. I was wondering how they were.

See, when we lived in Pittsburgh we lived in the city. Right on the border of one of the nicest and one of the nastiest neighborhoods. You know how city living can be. Well, across the street from our house was a condo building. Some of the condos were rented out as apartments by their owners. So a few had some questionable tenants. One being a heroin dealer who's stint there involved his two year old falling out of the 3rd story window and breaking only his arm and my car being stolen TWICE by the same druggie!

Anyway, that's another story. This story is about the tenant who took residence in that same apartment when the drug dealer got busted and no longer lived there.

I had seen this lady come and go many times with her daughter for a few months. We exchanged cordial hellos and small talk as we passed on the street. I assumed she was just another resident in that building. Then, one day all that changed.

We had purchased a house and were preparing to move. In our preparations we were going through our stuff and putting stuff out on the sidewalk for the garbage. I had old clothing, old mops and brooms, old magazines and cleaning supplies bottles that were practically empty. I left to take a load of stuff to the new house and returned to find the new neighbor and her daughter rummaging through my pile of stuff on the sidewalk. They had the nasty old broom and mop, many of my magazines and the dish soap bottle with a 1/2 inch of solution left in it. I also noticed her daughter was wearing my old track jacket. I was slightly taken aback that my neighbor was going through my garbage but shrugged and went inside. A little while later I carried an old double bed mattress and box spring out to the curb as well. It was really old and broken down. We had just bought a new one. About an hour later another neighbor knocked on my door. He asked if we were throwing out the mattress set or if we just had it out there to move it. I told him it was for the garbage. He then told me about the lady across the street.

She had moved there from South Carolina and was part of a domestic violence rescue program. A church in Pittsburgh had sponsored this woman and moved her and her daughter (who was about 10) to this apartment. She was fleeing her abusive husband and left in the middle of night with nothing. The church got her a job at Hospice. They provided transportation to and from work. He asked if he could give her the mattress set. I of course said yes. He asked if I could help him carry it up to her apartment. (He had lost his leg and had a prosthetic and climbing 3 floors of stairs and carrying a mattress was a big challenge. Even with my help.)

When we got to the top of the stairs to her apartment I noticed the welcome sign hanging there was one I had thrown out. I got sad. They weren't home but the door was wide open. I was confused by that until I went in. There was nothing in the apartment but a rug on the bedroom floor and a couple articles of clothing hanging in the doorless closet. The apartment was one big bedroom and a kitchen/living area. No furniture anywhere. They were sleeping on a rug! I saw my old magazines in a neat pile by the rug. We set up the bed in the middle of the rug. I inquired if this was for real to the my neighbor. He said yes. It was the end of October and very cold and he said they had no heat. She couldn't afford to pay for it. He said he was going to try to help her pay for it himself but he was on disability so his income was very limited. He told me he had been giving her money for groceries. I almost cried right there. I went straight home and dug through everything trying to find the sheet set that fit that mattress. I found an old sleeping bag and some old blankets to give them. I went through all my clothing and gave them everything I no longer wanted or needed - including coats. I went through all my belongings and put together a few boxes of stuff for them - stuff to make their apt feel more like a home and food from my pantry. I left it in their apartment for them and left.

I never saw them again, but think of them often. Especially when it is cold. I will never forget that. It was the closest I've ever came to personally knowing someone in such a dire situation. Here this woman was living across the street for several months like this and I had no idea. She was brave and proud. She always seemed to have a smile and kind word to me. She was working at Hospice helping others and she was the one who needed help. I was so sad that I couldn't help more.

I hope things have gotten better for her and her daughter and I hope she knows that I think of them often.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas in New Orleans

Well, the family is all here and we have been busy to say the least! When my parents arrived on Tuesday we headed straight from the airport to The Galley (2535 Metairie Rd) - my dad's favorite restaurant. I had the crab cakes with crawfish sauce and have to say they are my second favorite New Orleans dish next to Drago's crawfish ravioli!

Hubby and I planned a lot of meals and prepared some in advance to make meal time easier. We didn't want to spend so much time going out to eat and deciding where to eat. We made turkey/sausage gumbo, crawfish pies, hungarian soup and pulled pork sandwiches.

On Saturday morning we had a family photo taken by Katherine Bentz. It is rare we are all together and my mom has wanted us to get a family photo done so that was our Christmas gift to her.

On Saturday night we got to involve my family in a tradition we have participated in since we moved here in 2004. Our neighbor Patty and her husband Frank always invite us over for a Spaghetti dinner which is immediately followed by the decorating of Gingerbread Houses. Now, this is not your typical gingerbread house decorating. In fact, I will bet money you have never seen anything like it before! Patty prepares a homemade house and constructs it for each person. Then, she lays out the candy to decorate it. Imagine 10 -12 cookie sheets filled with those single serving pie plates each filled with a different kind of candy. Her table probably seats 12 people or more and we all sit around it with candy covering the table and barely leaving room for us to decorate our houses. We each get our own loot of icing in icing bags with tips to adhere our candy to our houses. It is amazing and gets bigger each year! My family just couldn't believe it and loved it. Here are our works of art!

On Sunday we finished our christmas shopping, wrapping, preparations. We cooked some steaks and boiled up some shrimp for dinner. My brother couldn't get over the size of the shrimp we have here!

Today we headed into New Orleans to take my brother for his first tour of the French Quarter. We had lunch at the Bourbon House which was a good choice for all. It was chilly outside, but we walked all over the quarter and took in the street artists. This gentleman below could really play a mean harmonica and had a pretty good voice!

After our visit to the quarter we returned home to set up the neighborhood's traditional luminaries. Many houses buy them from a neighbor and set them along the road in front of our houses to light the way for Santa.

After some fun with fireworks we read "The Night Before Christmas", set our cookies, milk and carrots for Santa and rudolph and then put the kiddies to bed. Once in bed my mom and I prepared our breakfast casserole for the morning. We put the gifts under the tree, stuffed the stockings and now at 12:07 pm I better put out that fire in the fireplace so Santa doesn't burn his bottom and get to bed! I leave you with this very sweet photo of what my daughter put together for Santa tonight.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Holiday Poem

The halls are decked
The lights are strung
The house is clean
The Hungarian cookies are done.

The to-do list was long
I fretted and puffed
We worked diligently
to get all items checked off

Tis the eve of family arrival
All three are tucked in tight
Hubby has stomach flu
I hope the littlest sleeps all night

The house is silent
The dog is snoring
I take a deep breath
And apologize for this poem being so boring!

I sit here in silence
anticipating my family's arrival
and hope that we make it through
without an episode of Survivor!

He He!

Happy Holidays ya'll!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Holiday Endorsements

Need a great haircut/color for the holiday?
Mandie Battaglia at Urban Retreat.
Located above Coffee Rani in Covington

Need a quick, affordable oil change, safety check or tire rotation before your holiday travel?
My guys at Autoville in Mandeville are so sweet and I never seem to wait long. They take my care in pronto! They have a little kid area in their waiting room and the waiting room is clean.
Rt. 22 in Mandeville - past Tiffany Lanes, before West Causeway Appr. merge.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Grinch is posing as Santa at Lakeside Mall

So today I took my son to see Santa at Lakeside Mall since I was over that way for another reason. Figured I would kill two birds with one trip.

When I arrive at the Santa area there is no one in line so I take a look at the picture price list. Just as I start to read it the photographer comes up and says, "Just come on over." So I take my son up to Santa she snaps a few pictures has me look at them. I find one I like.

"Do you know what package you want?" she asks.
"I think I want that wallet package . . ." and I start to walk back over to the price list.
I get there and say, "No, I want package E."
"Oh, I already hit print." She says.
"Well, I don't want the wallet package now that I've had a chance to look at the price list. " I say.
A tall balding man who had been standing there the whole time who must run the operation says, "You said you wanted the wallet package and she already printed them so you can't change."
I argue that I didn't say for sure what I wanted and that she hit print before I made a decision and now I have to live with it? (NOTE: Both the wallet package and Package E were the same price.)
"Yes, ma'am," he says and gives me this mean look as to say I better not argue with him.

So there I stand wanting this cute picture of my son with Santa for his first time and I have to take what they are giving me or just go. I pay and walk away infuriated and the photographer lady could tell. She was trying so hard to be nice to me.

I walked away ready to scream out obscentities. My face had to be so red. As soon as I walked out of the exit area I circled back around and went back in the entrance line. I stood patiently in what was now a bit of a line. The photographer was ringing someone up and saw me. She caught my eye and waved me back over. She told me she would refund my money. I said, "No, I want pictures, I just want the package I want which is the same price!" She said ok and went back to the computer to print it out for me.

In the meantime, the tall balding guy started berating me. I asked him if he had any idea what customer service was. He continued telling me how stupid I was that I couldn't understand the price list! The photographer kept telling him to shut up (literally!). She was trying to get him to just not say anything but he couldn't help himself. He told me that NO ONE has ever had a problem reading their price list and understanding it and I should have made my decision and stuck with it. I stood my ground and said that I didn't even get a chance to read the damn price list! He went on and on in front of all these people. The people in line for pictures were all watching. One lady was shaking her head. I looked at her and said, "Make sure you know which package you want and read this list before they hit print!" The photographer came back to me with my pictures and asked me not to say anything to her customers since she was making an effort to fix the situation for me. The tall balding guy said something to her that I didn't hear and she snapped back that she would pay for them out of her paycheck! I looked at her and apologized. I told her how much I appreciated her efforts and that I did not mean to cause a problem and I hoped she had a nice holiday. She apologized for the tall balding guy's behavior. (I think she knew she had made a mistake hitting print too fast and felt bad.)

As I started to walk away with my new pictures the tall balding guy reached over the counter and handed me the wallets I originally had and said since I apologized he would let me have the wallets for free. I took them out of his hand and threw them in the garbage sitting right next to the counter and walked away.

What is important to note here is that the package I ordered was 1 5x7 and 2 3.5 x5 pictures and the wallets were just 8 wallets. Both packages require the use of ONE sheet of photo paper and a little ink. Seriously, how much money is he losing to rectify the situation with a reprint? I am not stupid. If you have ever been there you know the prices they charge and know that they are making a killing!

On a merrier note, the lady at the train next to Santa is a dream! Both myself and the fellow in front of me only had a $20 bill to pay for the $1 ride. She didn't have change for even one of us. She said, "Just let the kids ride and when you get change while shopping or eating just come back and pay me!" We both promised. By the time all the kids got on she finally had change and made change for both of us while we waited for the kids to ride. A lady walked up next to me with her son and looked in her wallet and discovered she only had 75 cents. She told her son she needed to go find an ATM. I reached into my pocket pulled out a dollar and handed it to her and said, "Don't go looking for an ATM. Just take this and let him ride. Merry Christmas" She insisted I take her 75 cents and thanked me. The train lady overheard us and said, "Give her that dollar back. Just give me your 75 cents. That will do."

Merry Christmas train lady. Thanks for being so polite and changing our moods!

As for the tall balding photo guy. Well, he is a Grinch and be sure to tell him so the next time you are at Lakeside Mall!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Operation Photo Rescue

I am alum of Ohio University. And I am very proud of that fact. One thing that I love about OU is the strong alumni connection. I was reading the quarterly magazine that OU sends me and read something that hit home. Or at least my current home.

Shortly after Katrina, another OU alum from Baton Rouge who was visiting home but living in Viriginia took a photo of a woman throwing out family photos damaged in hurricane Katrina. She went back to work and she and her editor decided to start Operation Photo Rescue and set up shop about 70 miles northest of New Orleans. They have to date restored over 1500 photos for not only Katrina victims but victims of other disasters, house fires, etc. What keeps them going is their OU connection with West Coast Imaging who prints the photos for them. Two groups of OU alumni who did not know each other but came together for a good cause.

For more info on Operation Photo Rescue go to

Yeah OU!

* info from Ohio Today Fall/Winter 2007

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

You might be from Ohio . . .

My uncle who is from Ohio but has lived in Virginia most of his adult life sent me this. I spared you all the length and only included the ones I felt were really true.

You know all the four seasons: winter, still winter, almost winter and construction. (Construction is summer in case you are confused)

You live less than 30 miles from some college or university.
( Yes, more people in Ohio stay in state when going to college because we have so many good ones. I am partial to Ohio University! Not Ohio State - there is a difference.)

You know what a buckeye really is, and have a recipe for candy ones.
(Hubby and I both loves these. My mom used to make them every Christmas!)

“Toward the lake” means “North” and “toward the river” means “South.”
(And if you live near Lake Erie your are either East or West of Cedar Point)

You know if other Ohioans are from southern or northern Ohio as soon as they open their mouths. (Once in college I had this boyfriend from some little po-dunk town in southeast ohio. He and his brother had this accent. I started talking to this guy next to me in class one day and he said a word a particular way and I asked him if he was from that same town and sure enough he was. He was shocked I guessed. People from Toledo "go over" someone's house. People in Cleveland "go by" someone's house.)

“Vacation” means spending a day at Cedar Point in the summer and deer hunting in the fall. (Oh. Don't get me started on the hunting vacation.)

You measure distance in minutes.
(He He. True! My friend from Cleveland visited my house once when I was in high school. She was asking me where certain places were and I kept telling her in minutes. She made fun of me and said, "Can't you just tell me roughly how many miles?" I had no idea!)

You’ve had to switch from “heat” to “A/C” in the same day.
(Again, very true. Ask my mom. They tell me about this all the time.)

You end your sentences with an unnecessary preposition. Example: “Where’s my coat at?”
(Uh. Yup. That is true too. )

You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked.
(Sure did. Didn't leave the house unlocked, but we used to leave a key to house on a hook inside that unlocked garage. My grandma lived out in the country and left her house unlocked until recently.)

You carry jumper cables in your car.
(I thought everyone did until I moved away. I just needed them down here last month. Thank goodness my neighbor had some. She said they came with her car. Figures.)

You know what “pop” is.
(I said this the other day and my 4 year old asked me what it was I was talking about.)

Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow.
(We also KNOW HOW TO drive in snow.)

You think sexy lingerie is tube socks and a flannel nightgown.
(Mom, this one is all you!)

You call it Krogers even though it is Kroger.
(Or not it is Meijers instead of Meijer.)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Thank a soldier.

Daily Delilah sent this to me.
"Something cool that Xerox is doing If you go to this web site, you can pick out a thank you card and Xerox will print it and it will be sent to a soldier that is currently serving in Iraq. You can't pick who gets it, but it will go to some member of the armed services. How AMAZING it would be if we could get everyone we know to send one!!! This is a great site. Please send a card. It is FREE and it only takes a second. Whether you are for or against the war, our guys and gals over there need to know we are behind them... "

My friend Tammy sent this to me:
When doing your Christmas cards this year, take one card and send it to this address. If we pass this on and everyone sends one card, think of how many cards these wonderful, special people, who have sacrificed so much, would get.When you are making out your Christmas card list this year, please include the following:
A Recovering American Soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20307-5001