Family · Planning · Reflection · travel · vacation

Resetting – Low Country Makes it So Easy

I am enjoying every morning this week sipping my morning coffee as well as every evening cocktail or glass of wine while sitting in a rocking chair like this and seeing these views: rain, shine, dawn, or dusk.

Phoenix just doesn’t have as much green as South Carolina. We can try to manufacture it but it just will never reach this beautiful level of green. My

Our gracious host has encouraged us to treat his home as if it was ours. Being so blessed to have this sweet retreat is immeasurable. I spend my quiet moments remembering the fun time exploring the Low Country and thinking of the next path of a new day’s journey. Living in the moment is not always easy for me because I love to plan. I promised myself that our days would be slow starting and gently flow from one thing to the next with no sense of urgency. In fact, yesterday was rainy and my daughter was, in typical teen fashion, disappointed that it wasn’t a good day for the beach. She stayed inside and I went traipsing in the rain to explore local shops and brought home trinkets and treats. I even cooked dinner for everyone with some fresh shrimp I bought at the local fish market. Our host did say to make ourselves comfortable and cooking shows I am all in on that invitation.

Today ends phase one of our visit, experiencing Charleston and Summerville. We have done so much already.

We spent a day exploring Summerville, the homes of sweet tea and two of the greatest people I have the privilege to know. Historic downtown is full of small local businesses and charming sidewalks that are fun to explore. It is also the home of the oldest pharmacy in the state that still exudes a small town charm while honoring the history of the generations who have been serving the locals over the years.

Our day downtown in Charleston was relaxing. We spent most of the day exploring its history contemplating the history and wondering how women in hoop skirts ever walked these narrow sidewalks We wandered in and out of the famous Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto festival events including

We grabbed lunch at the famous dive bar near Waterfront Park and left our mark on the walls like so many other patrons have done over the years. I can’t wait to visit again and find our moment in history. While we ate, we read the numerous dollars that lined the walls talking about the girl weekends, anniversaries, and family trips that have been memorialized by countless others. How cool is it to think that someone else may be doing the same when they read about our mother-daughter trip?

We enjoyed the peaceful spaces at the park on swings and benches. We quietly evesdropped on conversations that floated around us and tried to guess where folks were visiting from by focusing on languages and accents and stories.

We loved the trees and memorials in every park. Each stop was a history lesson just waiting to be discovered.

We visited Dock Street Theater, the oldest theater in the country. It has been standing and operating since the mid 1700s. It is beautiful inside. Our host works here and gave us the back stage tour before treating us to Chamber Music sponsored by the Spoleto Festival. What an amazing piece of history. While sitting there I thought of all of the plays and operas that must have been performed here and all of the historically significant folks who may have sat in the same seat as me.

Speaking of history…

We also visited St. Peter’s and in the West Cemetery discovered Vice President Calhoun’s resting place. Very cool find.

Charleston is rich in beauty and history and just walking to discover what we found was much more resetting and relaxing than making a list and schedule and pushing us to see so much. This wasn’t our first visit to this lovely city and likely not to be our last. Why rush to take it all in. Our slow roll really let us just take in the beauty and digest a little at a time. I loved it.

In our down time we spent the past few days just driving around with no destination. We found ourselves looking at the homes and imagining ourselves in them. We even stopped in some of the new developments and toured a couple of model homes.

A writer can dream. Heck this girl can dream any day of the year. And I do. Every time I visit this place I can easily picture living here. This time my daughter seemed to see it too. We may have to visit Clemson and some of the other schools in the area during our next visit. Always planning…

Now off to explore vacation phase two – Isle of Palms, South Carolina. Beach day. Yay!

Family · lists · Planning · Reflection · travel · vacation

Managing Mondays – Holiday Style

I am not sipping coffee in my normal spot today and it is not really Monday. Here is my morning quiet place.

What nonsense is This? It is called vacation. I am taking the week off from my weekly spread. (And work.) What? I know. Call me crazy. No planner in sight! I left it at home. Instead of planning the week I left it blank. When I get home I plan to make those pages memories instead. I bet you are wondering how I will survive a week with no planner or no plan, even. Ha! I am not that nuts.

I am in Charleston, South Carolina for the week. We got here yesterday which is why my Monday post is a day late. And while sipping coffee this morning, I have my notebook, pens, stickers, highlighters, and my one pager.

See! I have a loose plan. I left behind the hustle and the structure because I want to relax. So, I have goals. And whatever shape each day takes is what it is. I plan to take lots of photos, videos, and note down in my journal what I saw, felt, and thought about my experiences.

Did I mention my daughter is with me? Oh, yes, she is!

I have my journal page ready and we are heading out to explore in a bit.

I am excited to make lists about today. If you haven’t started following me on Instagram or Twitter find me. I would love to have you along on our adventures.

Goals · lists · packing · Planning · Planning · travel · vacation

Managing Mondays…and A week of one event after another

Sipping coffee this morning I thought about how busy this week was really going to be and I spent the quiet time focused on meditating instead of making lists. Afterall, I deserve to gift myself a bit. Tuesday is my birthday!

Weeks ago I told my offspring that the only gifts I wanted were ones that included their time working on projects around the house…indoor and outdoor beautification and organization. I am happy to see a little improvement each day as these small to big projects and various phases getting completed. So far so good. The goals are aggressive so the timeline was extended to the first week of June.

I love birthdays.

This week is also the last week of school for my youngest. So early release days and finals make the week hectic. As a working mom I am negotiating pick ups for the early release days. I truly am very blessed to be surrounded by a village of family and friends who help out on crazy weeks like this one.

I have work partners who are in town this week so I have a dinner out with them while they visit. I made sure I batch cooked a few meals yesterday to be easily warmed up for lunch or dinner. Good thing too since I got the invite to dinner on Wednesday very last minute.

Thursday includes an all day meeting and an appointment for my daughter. That day could be ripe with conflicts since it also the last day of school with an early noon release. Did I mention how blessed I am to have a village of support? I just need to note who is who and when so I don’t get confused or set false expectations with anyone. I cannot imagine life without my planner on weeks like this one. How would I ever keep it straight otherwise? And then there is the all day meeting…so of course there will be a lit of notes and action items. Insert a half page for a list and notes.

This coming weekend is Phoenix Comic Fest and as much as we want to attend all four days, we are only attending on Saturday.

Insert Checklist! This is a work in progress. Planning Cosplay and a survival kit for a day long convention requires planning and preparation.

But that’s not all…next week is Vacation so….I need to start making the packing list.

I want to keep it simple so that throughout the week I can add to my list and pack whenever I have a window of time. I know most will be last minute. That’s the beauty of the lists. I have a place to note down whatever I think of whenever it comes to mind. I can worry less and enjoy the busy birthday week.

So, let the list making and note-taking begin. I think I am ready for the week. Just keeping my coffee fresh and my planning time quiet and productive.

Have a great week!

food · Goals · health · Planning · Planning · travel · Vision

Planner for that: Focus on Fit and Healthy

Of course I am sipping coffee.

It was a rainy week. And today, the forecast calls for more. In Phoenix? Yup. Unusual to be sure! January is usually a rainy month and not February. So with the rain, I have been feeling lazy. No walking around the neighborhood. To be honest I am still recovering from some illness that took over my body while in Florida on business. I tell myself every morning that I feel better but by the end of the day, my body wants to rest. So I let it.

In January, I set simple goals.

And this post is a way of being real with myself and everyone else. I did not meet all my goals. Not in the pen and paper sense anyway. My fitbit does track some but my planner has a lot of white space left.

I started strong as you can see in week one.

And week two looks similar.

But the last half of the month looks like I fell off the wagon.

I didn’t completely fall off. I was definitely more focused on food. I did monitor my weight. I did work on sleeping better. I certainly focused on moving more. I just epically failed on tracking everything.

What do you do when you recognize you failed? Do you ask yourself why bother? Do you reset and start again.

Me? I sat in my chair and I looked at my vision board hanging on the opposite wall and I remembered that this is no New Year’s Resolution fail. This is a journey to a better me. It is where I want to be.

And the healthier me remembered that I should take time to reflect and reset.

After reflection, a vacation and a business trip have passed, I am picking right back up for the balance of February.

I am keeping the same goals and focus for the month and reminding myself to be kind as I reset.

The bonus to all of This? There is one. I may have not been perfect but I did come home from vacation and a business trip maintaining my weight within a pound. Oh…and as of today I lost two more.

Perfection is nowhere on my vision board. Loving myself and focusing on self-care in easy manageable ways one day at a time is. Let’s see how I do for the next 30ish days.

How are you doing with your plans and vision? I would love to hear. Please comment and share.

Reflection · travel · vacation

Happy Mardi Gras! History, My First Krewe Parade

Growing up with a French speaking Grandmother, I always knew that Mardi Gras was French for Fat Tuesday. I also knew that it was the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. Being raised Catholic Grandma made sure that I remembered to eat a big “fat” dinner that Tuesday every year because Wednesday meant a day of fasting and giving up something for Lent.

Over the years, I saw images and scenes depicting Mardi Gras festivals in places around the world. Even in school we were briefed on its history.

Mardi Gras is a season every year that really starts as Carnival and climaxes on Fat Tuesday. In places like New Orleans it has a very long history and more meaning than just the crazy costumes, beads, revelry, drunkenness, flashing and parades.

Knowing I was going to be in New Orleans during Carnival my planning included web research to brush up on the facts and found this Mardi Gras history lesson to be pretty concise and informative. I got lost in web land and remembered reading a book a few years ago, Downfall of a Good Girl. This sweet romance really piqued my interest in this annual event. Every time I see an NCIS: New Orleans episode around the week of Mardi Gras my yearnings persist.

2018 is my year. The Tri-Centennial Year of the city of New Orleans. Me. And my friends. In the Big Easy for Carnival.

Comparing my itinerary with the official Mardi Gras 2018 calendar brought out giddy girl excitement. Why? Well, the moon and stars aligned for me because the first parade of the season in the French Quarter hosted by Krewe du Vieux was the Saturday I was going to be in town. Yahoo!

Fast Forward to my trip. We went.

We stood in the crowds.

We met new people.

We had a great time experiencing a satirical and quite traditional Krewe Parade.

Satirical? Really? Oh my! Yes! This was not a parade for the narrow-minded. Nor was it a parade I would take minor children to. (This is certainly a parental choice. I did see a few children there and I am certainly not judging.) This year’s theme, in my mind was a sufficient warning.

The Krewe’s satire was bawdy and suggestive all while poking fun, or not so fun, at the Local Water and Sewer Commission. Some Krewes in New Orleans now steer away from some of these traditional satirical themes. Many use modern ways of pulling the floats. Krewe du Vieux (wikipedia.com) still holds to tradition with horses and mules.

History of Krewe du Vieux

Krewe du Vieux is quite known for bringing along the best Brass Bands in New Orleans.

better parade images than mine (nola.com) warning…some of these images are graphic and may be deemed inappropriate.

I loved the entire experience and pretty sure my friends did too. The throws ran the gamut from pieces of candy and mini frisbees all the way to these raucous fans.

I captured a few videos I have uploaded to my YouTube channel, She Sips Coffee. Feel free to stop over and take a peek. You will find them here.

Knowing what I now know about Krewe history in New Orleans and seeing a parade, I have a whole new respect for the hard work done by these organizations. Not just during the Carnival season, because the work gets done year-round. Many work to raise awareness and many drive philanthropic agendas. They plan themes and floats probably almost as soon as they tear down the last one. As millions of people swarm the Bayou to party, I wonder how many know the history and honorable work of many of these men and women in these organizations? The annual parades and balls boost the local economy each year and lots of crazy stuff happens. I wanted to learn another side, or the why behind a theme. I watched for the message the Krewes were sending to the local politicians. Colorful images with creative puns and bawdy humor were prevalent from float to float tying to the theme and proving the hard work of the smaller Krewes that collectively form Krewe du Vieux. It wasn’t about the best Brass bands marching in between although they set the pace and gave us a party rhythm. We danced. We laughed. We were shocked. We were awed.

I wish I could have seen more parades and taken part in a Krewe Ball or two. Guess I just have to plan another visit to The Big Easy and soak more of it in.

The day after the parade, I saw this on a corner in the French Quarter. (It wasn’t raining.)

I immediately thought about why they chose their theme. Ten years after Katrina and essentially with NOLA being 300 years old, I believe there is work to be done to ensure a sound place to live. And don’t you want to believe New Orleans citizens want to offer a great city for you and me to visit? I appreciated the satire even more. Seems the opinion of the Krewe is that it is time for change.

Have you been to Mardi Gras or Carnival in New Orleans or other cities? Share your stories and memories in the comments below. Please!

Family · food · lists · travel · vacation

New Orleans…Day Two…Eating on the Bayou

The French Quarter is a world in itself. It is colorful and musical and wonderfully unlike anything in my desert oasis home of Phoenix. Waking up in the Big Easy in The Prince Conti Hotel, mere steps from Bourbon Street was surprisingly relaxing. I could have stayed at a newer hotel but I wanted a place that had history and was locally owned. This hotel, although older, has a charm that appeals to my writing soul. If I didn’t have a day of adventure planned, I could easily relax here and let words flow. If you are going to visit this wonderful city, stay in a place like Prince Conti and feel part of the history. This was my second time in this city and my second time at this hotel. The decor always takes my mind to corsets, ball gowns, pegnoirs, and beignets. The stuff in all the historical romances I have loved to read for decades. The staff is friendly, thoughtful and helpful with directions and suggestions on what to do.

My bestie and I enjoyed the late morning and early afternoon. We wandered Bourbon Street stopping in to listen to live music here and there taking advantage of great bar service along the way.

I loved every minute she and I spent. I had a thing about this place because of the fire and water fountain. I had to take a picture.

I had to eat too. And finding gluten free in the French Quarter is not so easy.

My true mission the second day in the city was finding my way to The French Market. And by late afternoon I was hungry. When I asked the best walking path to the market, Prince Conti staff were quick to point me in the right direction and suggested I try crab cakes at Meals From The Heart. Little did they know. I already had that place on my list from my research. I was also in search of The Crepe Cart . I dragged a couple of friends with me.

What a treat! My friends and I walked just over a mile toward the river past Jackson Square.

Until we found the place for crepes.

The folks at the cart matched the personality of the deliciousness they crafted. I couldn’t decide between savory or sweet so I asked for a suggestion and I went with it: Goat Cheese, Nutella, Bacon, and Ref Pepper Flakes on a gluten free crepe….amazing combination of flavors. This was totally off menu. You don’t have to be as daring as me. But you really should visit the market for this great stop.

And crab cakes? I did save room for one.

Melt in your mouth moist and perfectly flaky crab cakes. This is literally the best crab cake I have ever had. Their secret to gluten free is no secret. They simply do not put in bread crumbs as a filler. Pure crab and spices. And gluten free. The owner was friendly. He shared stories of how his mother as the master chef makes it her mission to devise vegan and gluten free foods with authentic Creole and Cajun recipes. I didn’t have enough tummy space but I really wanted to try their gumbo too. There was nothing fancy about eating at these places but they were definitely hidden gems in the French Market. I know that each and every opportunity I get to return to New Orleans a day of tummy pleasing grazing will be planned in the heart of The French Market.

And I will wash it down with a nice cup of New Orleans Coffee at Cafe du Monde nearby.

If only someone somewhere in The Big Easy would master a gluten free beignet! My foodie heart would be complete.

Now that I am home all I can think about is beignets and I keep looking at internet recipes and thinking about making them at home. If I do, I am inviting all my friends over to help me eat them and tell me how close they might be to the real thing. What if I mastered them, moved to New Orleans, and opened The Beignet Basket in The French Market myself?

lists · Planning · Reflection · travel · vacation

New Orleans-Day 1 Reflections

Are you ready to travel along with me and hear about my 2-week adventure? You helped me pack and plan. Now I am ready to explore.

I didn’t even sleep a wink like I suspected. I don’t know about you, even at 47 years old I still anticipate the trip and stay awake the night before my vacation. I tend to watch movies and triple check the packing list because the last things to pack are important: hygiene, health, and beauty items.

So with no sleep I headed to the airport with my bestie Trish. And on each flight our giddy inner-selves emerged. And we met fellow Rock Boaters along the way and made sure everyone in social media circles knew we were coming.

We skipped fruit juice with breakfast and opted for the adult version in-flight. Why not? And even better, they were free.

Southwest last minute repairs had us departing late and worried about our connections. Juggling passenger flight changes while we waited so lots of people, including my bestie, ended up on different flight which coincidentally was my connecting flight. We met up with our other friends in NOLA baggage claim and headed to the hotel together.

The first day was packed full of fun. We stopped in at Famous Door and listened to music.

We waited with anticipation for our first parade.

I will write a separate post about the parade. I promise. That experience was amazing.

We ended up visiting bars on Bourbon. We loved Ticklers the most. We spent about 8 hours there with the dueling piano guys. And ran into friend after friend who would be joining us on the cruise. Sing alongs and drinks and merriment make for a great day. We made our way to famous Pat O’Brien’s because you have to have a Hurricane from that place. You just have to! And ran into more friends. Such fun.

I found out the next morning I did a few shots and we are a late night breakfast close to the hotel. Ummm. I would say day One was amazing fun. Wouldn’t you?

Have you imbibed in New Orleans on Bourbon Street? What was your experience like?

More tomorrow…I am sipping coffee now.