The Big Easy, Part 1

We pulled into New Orleans around 2 o’clock in the morning. It’s a decent halfway point between Jacksonville and Oklahoma City, not to mention the disturbing affection my kid has for this city kind of forces us to give her a few hours in New Orleans after being tossed into the backseat for a 10-hour car ride with 12 hours to go.

Being here in New Orleans makes me really, really nervous but I just love this place so much!” 

This is what Elle said while we drove through the rowdy streets on a very early Saturday morning. After parking the car near our downtown hotel while Elle and I were safely housed in our 9th floor room at the Queen & Crescent, Matt was aggressively asked by a bunch of drunken idiots, “Hey, are you a professional wrestler!?”  I’m not sure if these guys were looking for an altercation, but Elle spent the next hour watching them pick a verbal fight with the parking attendant. (For the record, Matt is not a professional wrestler.)

See, what’s not to love about New Orleans?

New Orleans

Good morning, New Orleans!

Our first order of business after a not-so-good night’s sleep was to visit the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. This gave us an opportunity to not only stretch our legs before the hell of another 12-hour drive later that day, but we also got to see smiling stingrays!

Audubon Aquarium - New Orleans

they’re so happy!

Audubon Aquarium - New Orleans

There were also otters, glow-in-the-dark jellyfish, lionfish, an albino alligator, lionfish, the obligatory aquarium setup featuring Nemo and Dory (is this standard because Finding Nemo is so super awesome or have these two species always been housed together?), colorful walls of research on fly vomit and tapeworms, and the digestive tract of an owl, including poop. The last exhibit we visited took us through a lush garden (thank goodness for no more poop or vomit!) and this is where I took way too many photographs. Here are just a few:

Audubon Aquarium Gardens

Audubon Aquarium Gardens

I kind of wanted to rip this from its planter, stash it in my long skirt, and walk away like I’d done nothing wrong. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Audubon Aquarium Gardens

I take back the “no more poop…” comment – these two made a lot of it.

We did so much more before crawling reluctantly back into my tiny car for the remainder of our trip to Oklahoma. More on that another day…

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Posted in adventuring, animals, conservation, exploring, flora and fauna, flowers, nature, road trips, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Map of the Food World

We needed food the other day as Matt is no longer a bachelor and has way too many frozen pounds of meat in his basement freezer. I don’t eat a lot of meat so I went in search of a store that wasn’t Wal-Mart to buy food. I ended up at Buy For Less, the same place I’d found last November when I went shopping for cans of cream corn with cowboys – REAL LIVE COWBOYS! In cowboy hats AND cowboy boots!

Why am I surprised by this? I don’t know, but it was awfully fun to see. It’s probably the same as when an inlander visits my neck of the woods in coastal Florida and finds it to be truly fitting to see real surfers at the beachfront Wendy’s carrying their waxed boards and wearing puka shells around their necks.

Anyway, this time at Buy For Less was a bit more special, though. I’m the kind of person who likes to know how to get to places and finding the grocery store after making more than two turns on major city streets was only the beginning. The real grit to this adventure was finding my way around the grocery store.

After I took a few strolls up and down the aisles, a nice employee walked up to me and asked if I was looking for anything in particular. I had a sizable list and no sense of direction inside this place, but the woman told me that she was there to guide me to the correct aisle and help me find anything and everything that was on my list, that that was her job! So I had her all to myself for about 20 minutes.

She was like a personal assistant for food shoppers! Pasta on aisle 7B! Shampoo on 3A! Need a ready-to-bake graham cracker pie crust? Aisle 6B! But wait…where’s the Nellie and Joe’s key lime juice concentrate for when I get homesick for Key Lime Pie? Right next door on 5B, that’s where! She took me everywhere I needed to go and even gave me tips on what brands were less expensive than the others, when they have them in stock.

I was amazed by how much this woman knew until I noticed her looking down at a piece of paper. When I saw what it was, I felt like I’d hit the jackpot. This lady had a map.  A MAP OF THE GROCERY STORE, PEOPLE! So I asked her for one and she gladly handed it over. It is now safely tucked away in my purse for when I make my next trip to the grocery store.

Untitled

a map of the nearest food world!

As much as I love the idea of having a personal grocery store assistant, I love the idea of knowing my way around even more. My sense of direction relies very much on my ability to visually track a landmark. This goes for grocery stores and cities, central pharmacy kiosks or Route 66 turnoffs. All I need is a map.

Posted in adventuring, exploring, food, Oklahoma, Oklahoma City | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Whirlwind

Folks called us sneaky when Matt and I announced we’d gotten married on Thursday. In fact, the wedding had been quietly planned for longer than most people realize. I like quiet celebrations, small parties, dinner with those who mean the world to us, and Matt accommodated my wishes with encouragement.

The ceremony was in a courthouse chapel and the lady who married us had the last name of a fish. I had on a summer dress; Matt wore a nice shirt and slacks. The kiddo signed as our witness. Even our families weren’t present. It was perfectly quiet.

*****

We left Florida at 5:30 on Friday night. Somewhere outside of Lake City, the sky opened up and sent us away with one of Florida’s famous surprise downpours while I drove white-knuckled on I-10, heading west. The last thing I remember seeing before handing over the controls was another something that Florida is famous for…an incredible sunset.

leaving Florida

Goodbye, Florida

Later that evening, Matt took the wheel as the sky drew black and I fell asleep. I woke up about an hour later to see the Mobile skyline directly ahead.

Our destination for the night: New Orleans.

It’s been a whirlwind, these past couple of days. I’m adjusting to a sort of temporary life in Oklahoma, nesting as much as I can, or as much as I’m allowed. That story will follow soon – the story of how I actually have two homes at the moment but that I often feel how I have no home at all.

But for now, I am home…in Oklahoma.

Posted in adventuring, Florida, home, love, my family, road trips, travel | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Hand Stitching v. Sewing Machine

The kid has recently unearthed her American Girl dolls from her closet. She doesn’t really play with them as much as she uses them to help her in newer interests and hobbies, such as movie making and designing dresses by hand.  I only had to help her a few times with pinning shirt sleeves and dress seams together, but this was apparently enough to give her the notion that I knew what I was doing.

This is her completed creation from a few days ago:

 lanie

However, yesterday after battling with dropped sewing needles, lost fabric scissors, and the fact that she’s had no instruction whatsoever, Elle broke down and asked me for help. But it wasn’t help with hand designing or sewing that she needed, or wanted, for that matter. Elle actually asked me to set up the sewing machine for her and show her how to use it.

That’s when I had to inform her that back at Gwinn Middle School, I had been banned from using the sewing machines in our school’s Home Economics classroom because, in a very un-Midas-like fashion, I had broken every single one I ever used. Our year’s big assignment was to stuff and sew an animal pattern, like a teddy bear or a butterfly-shaped pillow. I chose a Scottish terrier. And for some unknown reason, every foot-pedaled machine I sat down to use ended up breaking down. All of them were put out to pasture because of user error and there was clearly nothing wrong with those sewing machines until I came along. Eventually, a teacher’s aide was asked to show me how to handstitch every seam of that little Scottie.

And that is why I am so good at sewing by hand.

My mother owns a sewing machine and uses it often.  She also has an insane amount of patience that I do not possess when teaching Elle certain things. One day, I’ll get those two together and my mother can teach her everything there is to know about sewing pieces of fabric and creating a fashionable design from scratch. In the meantime, I’m available for fixing the wounds of ripped up teddy bears, the split crotches of pants, and my dog’s torn squeaky toys.

Posted in childhood, my family, the kid | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Somewhere, There’s a Naked Snake

It’s helpful having an outdoor cat.

Polly wants attention

This year, Polly invited some friends over to keep her company (we ended up naming her cat friends Grayson, Sylvester, and Al Roker) and their presence is probably the reason why we were unaware of the rat infestation in the house behind ours. It’s since been remedied and Polly’s friends don’t come around as often anymore.

We also noticed a decrease in snake encounters. With all the rain we’ve experienced over the past couple of months, the creek that runs behind my house is actually trickling water. In previous years, this has brought all the snakes up into our yard, the nearest dry space.  So far, nothing.

Unless you count this:

 snakeskin

snakeskin

snakeskin

I found this dangling on the picket fence. After stretching it out, it looks to be around 6 feet long. While I’m not terrified of snakes, I am a little cautious to step around in the backyard now because I don’t know what kind of snake this came from! I don’t see a rattler case, so I guess that’s a good thing?

Posted in animals, Florida wildlife, nature, outdoors, weather | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Lavender Love

The past few months have converted me into an incredibly anxious individual. I deal with high anxiety on the regular because I was fortunate enough to be born this way (sarcasm) so when I speak of any kind of stressful situation, it’s usually something most of you would consider normal and my little pea-brain just doesn’t know how to process it. Basically, when LIFE happens, I’m all like…Whoa! Hold up. I’m totally not prepared for this. Now stop…except with tears and emotional upheaval-y type reactions and it’s pretty ridiculous sometimes.  Although I do believe that my most current situation would cause anyone to lose their marbles on occasion. I’ll tell you all about it sometime.

But for now, I will tell you about my recent breakthrough! While taking a shower (don’t worry, nothing dirty here, folks – ha, get it? Shower/Dirty? Oh, I’m hilarious), I noticed that ALL MY TOILETRIES are composed of lavender.

Here, I’ll share:

Face wash: Second Nature’s Lavender & Oat Formula
Shampoo/Conditioner: Avalon Organics’ Nourishing Lavender
Body Wash: Yardley of London’s Lavender & Rosemary Shower Gel
Deodorant: Tom’s of Maine Wild Lavender

And then there’s this:

Candles: Yankee Candle’s Lavender Vanilla tealights in my bedroom
Air Freshener: Glade’s Lavender & Vanilla for my car! A 3-PACK!

What stage of crazy would I possibly be at if I didn’t have all this soothing, calming lavender surrounding me? It’s in my hair, on my face, in my pores, in my car! A much more nervous wreck, I guess. Some things just can’t be fixed entirely, least of all genetics. Thanks, Mom!

I think what I find a bit odd is that I don’t remember selecting any of these items for their potentially relaxing and calmative qualities. Simply put, I just like lavender. Could it be my body’s reactive need for tranquility amidst all of my brain’s clutter? Kind of like those weird people who eat chalk only to discover they’ve had a mineral deficiency the whole time?

It’s physiological, perhaps. I seriously wonder if I have subconsciously chosen ways to incorporate lavender into my daily routine so as to keep my anxiety from reaching its peak. Which reminds me, I received an email from Nancy Baggett in response to a question I had sent her regarding culinary lavender and lavender sugar. I plan to bake some lavender shortbread cookies in a few weeks.

Because apparently slathering my body with lavender and subjecting my olfactory system to it are not enough – next time, we eat it.

Posted in baking, happiness, health, herbs, life, nature | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Pre-Transition

This past weekend I spent a few nights at my brother’s apartment.  He’s in London, being adventurous. I decided to hang out at his place for a couple of days and swim in his pool. Unfortunately, the first day we were there the weather was oddly chilly and overcast so I ended up folding the laundry he’d left in is dryer while Elle and her friend played Red Dead Redemption repeatedly on Xbox. The second day was full of sunshine and nearly perfect, right down to discovering the nearest Starbucks is just around the corner from his place.

I pretty much filled my time by watching endless episodes of The United States of Tara on Netflix, trying to get his lights and ceiling fans in sync with one another, and listening to the elephant that lives upstairs move furniture around at 2AM. Actually, that neighbor isn’t really an elephant; she’s a single woman with a chihuahua. And it’s only a one-bedroom apartment so…really, how much furniture could there possibly be?

There are some really nice neighbors that live next door to him, though, who were willing to hand over their corkscrew to me, a complete stranger. First, they invited me in and I met their overly crotch-friendly German shepherd. There was a tiny dog, too, but I hate tiny dogs so I didn’t pay him any attention. Jack is the exception to my hatred toward tiny dogs, but I still don’t trust him completely.

Anyway, it was our last weekend in Jacksonville for a month or so. Saturday we all leave for Oklahoma City. I’m gearing up for a week full of serious tasks – cleaning, organizing, packing, and a last minute dental appointment. At some point this week, I will partake in beach therapy. And as soon as I get to OKC, I will have to find my way to Arcadia Lake, the only lake in the metro area I’m aware of that allows swimming and has what is called “a beach”.

It’ll be nice to stand in a quiet body of water and not worry about getting chased by alligators or bumped into by sharks, all of which have happened to me since moving to Florida. When it comes to lakes in this state, they are full of critters, including venomous snakes, so it’s usually best to just sit back and enjoy the view – which is something else I did at Nick’s apartment.

  lakeview

Posted in adventuring, Florida, home, Jacksonville, life, neighbors, Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, outdoors, the beach, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment