Friday, March 27, 2015

Yummy Café Du Monde Beignets


A few weeks ago I received a coupon for one of my favorite ice cream shops in town – the New Orleans Snoball Café. While it's typically difficult to convince Justin to take me out for ice cream, I was having a bit of a rough day and he was feeling … sweet, I suppose. So he took me… And all of a sudden, amidst the rain that threatened, I could have sworn I saw a rainbow. :)

Anyway, in case you don't know (and I imagine most of you don't), the New Orleans Snoball Café serves snow cones (shaved ice) in a cup with sickly sweet syrup (my preference: strawberry and lime) a scoop of delicious vanilla ice cream, and (if so desired) whipped cream, marshmallow cream, and/or sprinkles on top. It is absolutely amazing. Far too sweet to eat the whole thing, so I usually stop when I get to the end of the ice cream… But still. Amazing.

While we were there, I spotted some boxes of donut looking things, and I asked Justin about them. I recognized the word "beignet" but I had no idea what they were or tasted like. As it so happens, the one and only place my husband has now traveled without me has been to New Orleans where he actually went to Café Du Monde and tried them. He explained that beignets were like little donuts and tasted a bit like funnel cake.

I suppose I sound like a sweet-a-holic when I recommended that we get some.

Justin was going to be fixing breakfast for a total of 6 people the next morning, and I knew he needed something he could cook fast. Obviously he bought bacon and eggs to cook, but toast (unless you have some really good bread from a bakery) can be kind of bleh in the morning.

So we bought the donuts…

You would be amazed at how quickly Justin had our breakfast together that morning. In under an hour, he had put the bacon in the oven, made scrambled eggs, and put together, fried and powdered (with sugar) these delicious little donuts. With the addition of fruit and coffee, our breakfast class had gone up a notch (or two). We felt like royalty. :)


Oh, and for the record, they do taste like funnel cake. :)

If you want to give them a try, you can buy them here on Amazon or you could try a recipe online instead.

Have you ever been to Café Du Monde in New Orleans? Are these donuts something you would be interested in trying?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Blogging Is All In the Journey

Colouring Pencils via PhotoPin

The following are a few questions regarding my journey as a writer/blogger…

1. How long have you been blogging? 

Forever, it seems.

Since 2001? I think? Maybe?

BUT! (And there is a big but!) There is a difference between blogging and journaling. For at least 10 years my blogging was solely journaling. I really started trying to transform my writing to more of a blog style sometime after I got married.

2. Why did you start blogging?

I started keeping a diary sometime in elementary school. My mom let me read hers from way back in the 70s and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Then I read the Anne Frank Diary.

Soon after I began scrapbooking…

And finally, I started journaling online when one of my female friends showed me her blog. It was nice to never get to the end.

But it didn't stop there.

When I was in high school, the fad was having a LiveJournal. And I had at least 2. One was private and the other was not. I shared my most intimate thoughts and feelings with online friends that only a password could get you.

Then it was wedding planning …

And finally where I am now … somewhere between blogging and journaling.

One day I'll figure it out.

3. How many times a week do you post an entry?

5. It started as a challenge to myself. I thought it would help me become a better writer. It did get me more followers, but I wouldn't consider myself a better writer because of it.

4. How many different blogs do you read on a daily basis?

128.

Honestly I had never counted until just then. That number stresses me out.

I follow travel blogs, fashion blogs, financial blogs, cooking blogs, DIY/craft blogs, and photography/photographer's blogs. The travel blogs are the most important to stay up to date on because they offer to-the-minute deals on hotels and flights that I wouldn't otherwise know about. Effortless Anthropologie lets me know when my favorite clothing goes on sale. And the others … are just for fun. :)

5. Do you comment on other people's blogs?

Rule #455 in writing a blog is making sure to comment on others' blogs. Do I? Not so much. :(

During the upcoming April A-Z challenge I can guarantee you I will be commenting on at least 5 blogs a day. Stressful? Absolutely. But fun too. It's a good way to meet people.

One thing I try really hard to do is if someone comes to my blog and comments, I click over to see their blog and comment there too. It's only fair. :)

6. Do you keep track of how many visitors you have?

Yes.

I also know what country you are from, what operating system you use, and which browser you are checking from.

Scared yet? ;)

But seriously, if I don't keep track of the numbers, I don't get to host giveaways. That's all you read my blog for anyway, right? ;)

7. Do you ever regret a post that you wrote?

Absolutely.

There is a fine line between sharing and over-sharing. One of the author's of a blog I read commented that she felt comfortable sharing her own story but she was uncomfortable sharing others' stories. This really made me think: whose story am I sharing? Sometimes, someone else's story is also my story. But if I share too much of their personal information online without speaking with them first, how will they feel? Will they know? Will they care?

Honestly, blogging can be incredibly confusing. There are rules about picture usage, posting recipes, and in how you write reviews… It can be overwhelming and stressful when all you want to do is write!

I typically get Justin to read over my blog every single day. If he's uncomfortable with something I post, I edit or delete. Unfortunately (or fortunately) he rarely thinks there is a problem, even if my gut disagrees. Typically, I follow my heart in those cases. This is why, occasionally, you will see a blog post there one day and gone the next…

8. Do you think your readers have a true sense of who you are?

YES.

I am a big advocate for honesty, especially with regards to who I am and how I express myself. If you were to meet me in person, you would find that my values are in line with the things I say on the blog. While I do occasionally stretch the truth or not reveal a whole truth, it usually comes from me trying to protect someone's privacy.

9. Do you blog under your real name?

Actually…


10.  Are there topics you would never blog about?

I want to say yes, but I've blogged about at least one of those topics (as an answer to a question) very recently. In general I try to refrain from blogging about anything too personal. I love you, but sometimes it's simply none of your business…

11. What is the theme/topic of your blog?

I consider myself to be a lifestyle blogger.

Just think about all of the blogs I follow: travel, money, food, clothes, DIY/crafts…

It's all about living and, hopefully, living better.

However, if you were to form my blog into a book, I think, currently it would be a bildungsroman. I'd love to change it up, but there is something so therapeutic about writing that you can't always get from pure facts, lists, and/or DIY projects. My blog over the past few years has been about how I've grown and changed –the life lessons I've learned– interspersed with reviews and recommendations.

12. Do you have more than one blog? If so, why?

Not anymore. Except still.

13. What have you found to be the benefits of blogging?

Mostly that I am held accountable.

Getting to try new products, host giveaways, and meet new people…

And the therapeutic writing of course. :)

14. So, why do you continue to blog?

I wouldn't know what to do otherwise. :-/

Seriously, I love to write. Even beyond that, I love to take topics/ideas and transform them into something that fits me and my style. Heck, I even love to edit!

15. Where do you see your blog going in the next few years?

I'm hoping to gain more control over my blog within the next year. I've begun by creating topics I try to stick to throughout the week – Money Monday, Travel Tuesday, Wordless Wednesday, Throwback/Giveaway Thursday, Food/Fashion Friday. I don't always stick to them, but it's nice to have a concept I can fall back on. It lets me know what to write about, and you, the reader, only have to visit on days when I'm blogging about that thing that interests you the most. :)

Also, with regards to my writing and pictures, I'm hoping to improve.

So why do you blog? What is your writing background? Are you brave enough to tackle some of these questions on your own blog?

* The questions in this blog post come from StrawberrySingh.com
* Thanks to the SITS Girls for providing today's writing prompt!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Vacation Options

credit goes to Mavis Butterfield for the image

Australia.

October? or for the end of December/beginning of January?

Husband isn't sold on the idea just yet but with time (or a good deal) I think I could convince him…

image from Wallalay

California.

Palm trees, sea breeze, and visiting with a friend. Who could argue with that?

image from IB Times

Paris.

End of December/Beginning of January.

I'd love to see the Christmas decorations and eat a Christmas Yule log, but I'm not sure I'd be able to withstand the cold. :-/ Plus, I heard they don't actually have a firework display near the Eiffel Tower on New Years Eve. How disappointing! Perhaps a visit around my birthday for Bastille Day would be better?

image from HomeAway

London, Amsterdam, Vienna, Barcelona, etc…

If we didn't celebrate NYE in Australia or Paris, where would we celebrate? I've heard all of the above places have fabulous firework displays, but I think London is the most tempting of the options. I love the skyline…

image from New Year's Eve Blog

New York City.

at Christmas time.

It would seriously be a dream come true experiencing the magic of the city lights, the shopping, the ice skating, and the Christmas decorations. :)

So… if these were your options, where would you go? What would you do? Share your ideal vacation spots with me! I'd love to hear them! (Plus, I need ideas!)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Things to Do & See in Georgia A-Z Pt. 3

Over the past two weeks, I have been sharing a list of 26 things to do and see in Georgia according to the alphabet. You can check here to see the first 4 (A-D) and here to see the latest 3 (E-G). The majority of the locations I talk about can be found in the downtown Atlanta area; however, given that it can be difficult to find places for every letter of the alphabet (as I have attempted to do), some locations I list will be a short drive outside of the city.

I hope you are enjoying my list so far and getting fantastic ideas for places you would like to visit the next time you visit the peach state!


H. High Museum of Art (also known as the High)

Founded in 1905 as the Atlanta Art Association, the museum holds more than 14,000 works of art in its permanent collection, more than one-third of which were acquired since 1999. The collection includes 19th and 20th century American and European art, decorative art, modern and contemporary art, and photography with highlight artists including Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Claude Monet, Dorothea Lange, and Chuck Close. Frequently, special exhibits are held at the museum featuring works from other museums including the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Tickets to the museum cost around $20 per person unless you are a college student (student ID required). It may be worth looking into the cost of a membership if you intend on visiting the museum more than 3 times in a year or if you have 3 or more children. As with all museum memberships, a membership to the High Museum may qualify you for a tax deduction. Speak with a professional to find out more.


I. Imagine It! Children's Museum (now known as The Children's Museum of Atlanta)

One of the only children's-only museums in Atlanta, the 16,316 square foot museum features exhibits designed and geared toward young children. The permanent exhibits encourage children to think about their community, most especially with regards to the cultivation of food from farm to grocery store. Other opportunities provided for children include the opportunity to paint, build sand sculptures, and learn to use tools. At a cost of $12.75 per person (children and adults both), it may be a fun place to play for a day, but don't expect any amazing or entertaining adult activities. Bring a book or get involved in your child's creations.

As a sidenote, the one time I went to visit Imagine It! with a shy 3 year old, I was surprised at how pushy some of the older children (think 8-9 year olds) were. While this is definitely a fun location for younger children, I recommend going during the week when most other children are in school, so that you can enjoy all that the museum has to offer without worrying about tears.


J. Joel Chandler Harris House (aka The Wren's Nest or Snap Bean Farm)

Built in 1870, this house was the home of Joel Chandler Harris, author of the wildly popular and controversial Uncle Remus Tales as well as editor of the Atlanta Constitution.

Much like Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, the Uncle Remus Tales are a collection of stories told by a former slave, Uncle Remus, during the reconstruction era after the Civil War. Disney eventually took on a few of the tales featuring main characters like Uncle Remus, Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox in Song of the South. The movie offered a unique combination of live action and animation and was released in 1946. The film won an Academy Award for Best Song in 1947 for "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" and was an inspiration for the Disney theme park attraction Splash Mountain. While the film received $3.3 million at the box office, it has also received a lot of critical attention for it's depiction of slavery. The NAACP said shortly following the opening of the film at the box office that "Song of the South [had] remarkable artistic merit in the music and in the combination of living actors and the cartoon technique. [...} However, in an effort neither to offend audiences in the north or south, the production helps to perpetuate a dangerously glorified picture of slavery. Making use of the beautiful Uncle Remus folklore, Song of the South unfortunately gives the impression of an idyllic master-slave relationship which is a distortion of facts." (see Wikipedia article here.)

While there is no denying that the Uncle Remus Tales are full of controversy, I think it is worth a visit to the Wren's Nest as a historic landmark. I've never been myself, but I hope to go some day…


K. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park

Located between Marietta and Kennesaw, Georgia, the name "Kennesaw" is derived from the Cherokee Indian meaning "cemetery" or "burial ground" and was designated as a U.S. Historic district on October 15, 1966 (Wikipedia). Best known for the Civil War battle that took place between June 19,  1864 until July 2, 1864, the park is 2,923 acres and provides walking trails, historic earthworks and includes three monuments representing the states who fought in this location.

Having never been to the park, I can't say whether or not it is worth a visit. The grounds look nice for a hike and the history may make this a unique experience for taking children. Plus, you can never go wrong with free admission! Just be certain not to take home any relics you may find in the park, because doing so is punishable by law.

So what do you think? Have you been to any of the places I've mentioned so far? Is there somewhere you think I should have included in my A-Z list? Share! I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Shake it off! Shake it off!

image from here via Photopin

One of the best things about my job is that no matter what is going on in my life, the kids I watch are all about themselves and having fun. Drama and sadness have to be left at the door, which is generally a good policy to begin with. Inundating your family and friends with your negative emotions only brings down everyone.

Of course, in contradiction, blogging is quite the opposite. It's often looking inward at what I need to improve in my life in hopes that it will benefit others perhaps going through the same types of things. Unfortunately, when you are already sad, it's not always best to look inwards. Sometimes it's better to look outwards – distract yourself with tv, movies, books, sleep, any conversation that is about anything but the elephant in the room (or your head).

Dear friends, let me be straight. I am not a medical advisor, psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist. If you are seriously dealing with depression and you think you need help, please don't rely on distractions to help you get through whatever you are dealing with. Seek out real people and real help. I am only writing about my experience.

Anyway, the following, in accordance with 30 Lists, are the 4 things I need to shake off Taylor Swift style:
1. Being uninvited to a wedding. 
via text
Seriously! 
Who does that? 
You can be invited. You can be not invited. But uninvited?  
I don't understand. 
2. Rude, unappreciative family. 
I won't elaborate, but it has recently overwhelmed and stressed me out. 
3. Feeling trapped. 
via student loan debt. 
Should I have skipped out on college? Is there anything we can do to pay down our loans faster? 
4. Travel. 
Justin had been saving all of his vacation time for the wedding we were uninvited to. Now I don't know where to go or what to do. Getting away from everyone is looking better and better though…
While I am quite certain that in 5 years hence, this all will be water under the bridge, right now I'm finding these issues to be big and unwieldy. Maybe I can find the Taylor Swift within, jump around and shake it off. Or maybe I'll just sleep it off. It's hard to say.

Is there anything in your life that you just need to shake off?

* I'm participating in 30 Days of Lists (sort of). Are you?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Daydreaming About Music City

In T - 6 hours I will be in music city! Unfortunately, it will not be all play as we will be attending a wedding all weekend, but I'm excited none-the-less. It's been 4 years since my last visit and I'm looking forward to finding some new and exciting things to do while we are there. Any suggestions?

Meanwhile, yesterday's #30lists prompt was about favorite music from high school (that I would still happily listen to). I suppose it's more of a throwback than Friday fun, but good music always puts me in a pleasant mood. I can think of no better way to spend the morning just prior to the long drive we will be making (in about 1 hour) to Nashville.

1. Better Than Ezra – "Desperately Wanting"


2. Crazy Town – "Butterfly"


3. Edwin McCain – "I'll Be"


4. Jewel – "Intuition"


5. Goo Goo Dolls – "Iris"


6. Matchbox 20 - "3 A.M."



7. Lost Prophets – "Last Train Home"


8. AFI – "Silver and Cold"


9. Maroon 5 – "She Will Be Loved"


10. Linkin Park – "In the End"


Runner Up: Jet – "Cold Hard Bitch"

Can you guess what time period I was in high school from based on my music choices? What were some of your favorites in high school?

* I'm participating in 30 Days of Lists (sort of). Are you?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Simple Things


A million and a half years ago, I was a volunteer at the public library, in charge of helping with the children's program, doing paperwork, shelving books in the children's section, and so much more. The best part of the gig was the free books I received: all of which were new and none of which I actually found time to read.

That particular summer, the majority of my friends were busy being … well, busy. Rather than sit around bored, I often found myself online chatting in a forum with a group of guys and girls who often threatened to throw kitchen utensils at one another. We had fun: we laughed and joked making fun of one another. Before I knew the time had even passed, an hour would go by … then two …

Right around my birthday that year, one of the guys from the group had the gumption to private message me and tell me he had a crush on me. It wasn't the first time a guy had announced his interest, but it was the first time a guy I had met online, who just so happened to live in the same state as me and was (not quite) twice my age had indicated interested. I'll be honest – I was appalled. And scared. First of all, how was I to know what kind of person he actually was? Then, to top it off, I was sincerely worried that the friendship would change into something uncomfortable. :( Needless to say, I was very upset when that conversation ended.

My birthday party was going to be held the next day. I had invited my clique of high school friends, only a few of which I was really close to. Slowly the party was falling apart though. One person backed out … then another.

This was not how I had envisioned my birthday celebration to go.

As I drove to the library that particular morning an unfamiliar song came on the radio: Amy Grant's "Simple Things". I was familiar with the sound of Amy Grant from the early 90s, but this new style? I wasn't sure if I liked it. As I listened to the lyrics though, I could relate to the desire of wanting to "believe in simple things". Within the next week, I had started a paper journal to document every single, simple moment that made me happy. Everything from what someone had offhandedly said to me, to a piece of mail I received unexpectedly, to a good grade on a test, or the beauty of a sunrise. Documenting these moments allowed me to realize that not only was I not alone in this world, but that I was loved and my life was good.

(By the way, the friendship with that guy did fall apart after his announcement, and all of the people that had backed out of coming to my birthday party came anyway. You win some, you lose some?)

While I haven't documented positive moments like that in years, I've decided that since I've had a *difficult* week, it couldn't hurt to do so again. Besides, it is one of my next prompts for The SIT's girls March blog challenge anyway. :)

The following are the 14 things that have made me happiest in the past 7 days (2 for each day):

Tr
• Having the free time to watch a movie before work.
• Hearing Meghan Traino's "All About That Base" for the first time on my Pandora playlist during my drive home in miserable, rainy traffic. It made me laugh. :)

Fr
• It was Friday, duh!
• Having dinner out with my in-laws and my sister-in-law's in-laws at a "rehearsal" dinner. (Is it still a rehearsal if the wedding is more of an elopement?)

Sa
• Taking all of the pictures at the wedding… (I like taking pictures.)
• Decorating a wedding cake for the bride at the last minute with florals from the grocery store. :)

Su
• My hair still looked good from Saturday's updo… (I love having pretty hair!)
• Buying a keyboard for Justin's ipad so that now it looks like a tiny computer. :)

Mo
• Finding out that a mystery shop I did would unexpectedly be accepted! Yay!
• DQ free cone day. (Because ice cream.)

Tu
• Having Chick-Fil-A for lunch! :) (I rarely eat out for lunch.)
• Beautiful weather! Too warm for a jacket, too cool to sweat.

Wed (2 extra for yesterday since I don't remember last Wednesday!)
• Finished The Bro Code. It was good, but not necessarily great.
• Got to make snow cones, play Monopoly, and watch The Flash with the kids I babysit. :)
• Received the perfect baby gift from Amazon for my new niece or nephew.
• Had lunch out with my mom. (Once again, a rarity.)

What "simple" things have made you happy over the past few days? Has there been a time in your life when you've been really down and out and a song helped to uplift your spirits?

* Thanks to the SITS Girls for providing today's writing prompt!