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!

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.

lists · packing · Planning · travel · vacation

Seriously…What to pack?

Saturday and Sunday I started packing, I organized myself and got down to brass tacks. I am sipping coffee and reviewing my lists. Because, well, do any of you live in New Orleans? Southern Florida, Cozumel?

I think I may need to adjust my plan. I see lots of rain and plain old chilliness on some days in the next two weeks.

I did the laundry, got the suitcase out of the closet and checked the weather forecasts. Then I put only definite items in the case and set it aside. Because I decided today was the day to look at the forecast one more time and make final adjustments.

Is packing such a process for you? I am still trying to avoid cranky. Cold and wet cranky is like a wet blanket. I think I need a couple of sweatshirts and sweaters in the mix. And a beanie and gloves to layer with my jackets.

I saw this post from a friend on social media saying that the day we sail out of NO LA will be chilly. To this Phoenician that high in the mid-50s will feel icy. I might look like I am heading to Alaska as we sail away but I assure you I am hoping that our captain puts the pedal to the metal. (What is the ship speed equivalent? Anyone know? Full Speed Ahead? Or is my Trekkie-ness showing with that one?)

Anyway. I never really worried about forgetting any thing because my lists have been ready and I will follow them. The dilemma is making adjustments. A reader suggested some capsule bloggers who are masters at packing and wardrobe optimisation. I may watch a few tonight. If anything resonates for me to recommend I will share before I set sail and let you know how it worked. For now, I have some coffee to sip.

Any last minute tips? Any suggestions to add to my “while in NOLA” list?

lists · packing · Planning · travel · vacation

Another Travel Dilemma…Eating Gluten Free

My excitement is building and I cannot wait to be on vacation. This past week has been a worrisome work week and my annual reset trip is just what I need to escape and come back on the other side with a renewed sense of strength and dignity to face the challenges ahead.

Traveling comes with worries because I have to avoid gluten. It makes me sick. Celiac Disease is not something that everyone understands and this post is not aimed to explain or complain about the challenges I face every day to maintain health. It is simply to share ways to plan options for healthy dining and ensure my traveling companions aren’t worried for me either.

Step One-while I count down days

Before I leave town I am making sure that I am taking care of myself all week. This includes:

  • Clean eating at home
  • Sleeping at least 7 hours each night
  • Taking supplements like probiitics, multivitamins, and immunity boosters like vitamin C
  • Diffusing essential oils at home. Thieves blend is in my diffuser while I sip coffee
  • Relaxation via detox and destress baths, reading, and quiet time whenever possible

Step 2-Know when not to worry

Once I am on the cruise it is easy. Norwegian, like most cruise lines these days ask for dietary restrictions and truly make an effort to provide safe eating options while on board. And for that I am very grateful. I feel quite special when the chefs and dining staff go out of their way to guide me on food selections and specially prepare foods for me when needed…even in the main buffet lines. As long as I seek the help offered I will successfully avoid gluten and fully enjoy my holiday focusing on friends, fun, and non-stop live music. One guideline I follow, no eating in ports. So eat a good solid breakfast and take a prepackaged snack from my go bag.

Step 3-Make a List

New Orleans is a whole different dilemma. Where do I find safe, inexpensive options so that my three days in an amazing city allows me to enjoy the sights and sounds? Research. Lists. Have a plan.

I relied on my friend, Google, and review sites like Yelp, Four Square, and Find Me Gluten Free. And will continue to research. Honestly, I am not the only person in my motley crew of rock boat family who are looking for healthy options. Well, they should be. So I will make sure we have options for vegan, vegetarian, paleo, and diabetic diets. And Coffee! I want to enjoy gumbo, crab cakes and king cakes and anything else that is part of the experience. I cannot eat beignets but my research uncovered a gluten free recipe so if I felt like I missed out, when I get home I will make some.

My list is ready and on paper and in my phone. Why both places? A phone battery can die. A phone can get lost or stolen just like the paper. I am that person who plans for all kinds of outcomes. Crazy? Maybe. But my friends and family, the motley crew, are used to it and sometimes glad because I tend to be the go to person on what to do and where to eat. It is a burden and a blessing. I love them and cannot wait to be spending vacation in a city that is alive with music and festivals.

Step 4-Pack options

As I finish packing, I also bring along in my suitcase and carryon safe snacks like LARA bars, cashews, pecans, Dang chips, and dried fruit. These items are small and can easily slip into my Vera Bradley hipster for times when I need something and in a time crunch, my friends can grab something from a place not gluten friendly and not worry about me. I can always drink coffee and chicory or some famous New Orleans drink and good company. I have a plan for everything.

Any recommendations on where we should eat? What we should see? I have 3 days and I am sure we can squeeze in more options into the plan. Comment below.