Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"You've got to keep on keeping, get on that pig and hold tight" - Parry Gripp

Annnd... now after watching the cutest video of all time (below) I feel really bad for eating so much pork in my post about Hogs for the Cause...

"The question is not whether we will barbecue, but how we will barbecue." – Joan Borysenko

OK, so the real quote is, "The question is not whether we will die, but how we will live," but NoExcusesBBQ has hilarious barbecue-themed renditions of some of the most famous quotes of all time, and let's be honest, I just couldn't resist!

Yet, the "made-up" Joan Borysenko quote pretty much perfectly applies to last weekend's trip to the annual Hogs for the Cause Barbecue in "City Pork" (aka City Park), New Orleans. The all-day event, a pig-roast, cook-off, fundraiser for pediatric brain cancer, featured 45 teams cooking delicious barbecue and jamming out to live music. Between the two pulled-pork sandwiches, multiple ribs, cole slaw, pork tacos, and ice cold NOLA Blonde beer, I was the happiest kind of full!

Sitting on the lawn with Pulled Pork Sandwich #2 and a Spicy BBQ Rib
Since I'd never seen anything like this before, it was a bit hard to handle all of the full roasted pigs. But, I tried to think of how they were benefiting the children with brain cancer... and my belly... yikes!
People danced, ate, and drank to the live music of New Orleans' staple Soul Rebels Brass Band
And finally, exhausted from the heat and full from the pork and beer, I rested my feet to take a listen to the live music. Never thought I'd own a pair of shoes resembling cowboy boots, but between my new appreciation for southern culture and a sick sale, I couldn't resist these vintage-inspired ankle boots...

May you also be reminiscing about the weekend past, and looking forward to the weekend coming!

Monday, March 28, 2011

"I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food." - W.C. Fields

This weekend, I had the pleasure of hosting a "Chips, Dips, and Party Mix" night in my apartment, and let me say, not only was the theme catchy in its little rhyme, but it was downright delicious. Because we all agreed upon our love for cooking, and subsequently eating, appetizers, each guest brought two dips with complementary dipping "utensils" and a bottle of wine. The night was a success, filled with yummy and creative food, great conversation, and (perhaps?) too much wine. WARNING: Healthy recipes were not required for this event; however, guilt-free-everbody-deserves-a-day-off-indulgence was! Check out some of the highlights of the evening below:

A happy dining room table with dips, chips, and some party mix. Note the pita chips in the foreground: homemade by yours truly! Check out the easy, yet better-than-the-bag recipe from the Food Network HERE. And, in the background, check out Kristen's introduction to Sarita's Pico de Gallo and Queso. Spicy and flavorful, a good representation of Mexican, Cuban, and Latin American cuisine in the big easy.

Lizzy's Homemade Bruschetta with three different kinds of tomatoes, paired with homemade pita chips or toasted garlic bread.

Amy's Summer Corn Dip paired with Frito's Scoops found at Bakin' and Eggs web site. 

Amy's Hot Pizza dip. Rachel: "Ooooh what's in it?" Amy: "You don't want to know!" Perfect.

Meredith's Caramelized Onion Dip and Lizzy's made-up Roasted Tomato and Feta Dip, made with Greek Yogurt. Working on getting the recipe...

Meredith's Homemade Artichoke Hummus, one of the healthier options, paired well with the carrots and celery dipping "utensils" below:

My first sampler of the colorful dips on the table. Don't worry, I went back for much, much more!

With all of the savory options on the table, I decided to provide a sweet-tooth indulgence as well by making a childhood favorite: Muddy Buddies! Recipe HERE or on the back on most cereal boxes. We also had fresh Louisiana strawberries and a yogurt dip for a slightly healthier option.

Looking forward to many more wine... I mean food... I mean girls-nights-in in the future!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

“Intuition comes very close to clairvoyance; it appears to be the extrasensory perception of reality” - Alexis Carrel

Photo Courtesy LyricsDog
Do you ever have days where you have a feeling of inexplicable anxiety? A pit in the stomach, an extra heart beat, unsteady hands? Apparently I do, and today has been one of those days. First I wondered if I forgot to do something, you know, take out the trash, turn in an assignment, something mundane. Then I wondered if I missed someone's birthday, or an appointment, or a personal engagement. Then, thanks to a conversation with a friend, she made me wonder if I was feeling something else - if my intuition was telling me something. It seems all my loved ones are doing well, but I still can't shake the feeling. 

This may come off as little crazy, but here it goes: I'm pretty sure clairvoyance runs in my family. I've never turned my nose up at fortune tellers or horoscopes, in fact, sometimes I even seek them out. So in my family, while sometimes it's an asset to have spot-on intuition, in this particular case, I'm hoping my mystery anxiety is nothing but a tummy ache or dehydration!

Ever have a psychic moment or inexplicable anxiety? I loooove a good supernatural tale, so share, share, share! 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

“When I admire the wonder of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands" - Mahatma Gandhi

Photo: Rachel DeHayes, "The Fly" on the Mississippi
I think this has been one of my favorite weekends in New Orleans thus far. Filled with relaxing time in the sun and a view of the incredible Super Moon, my soul could not be more fulfilled! Here's the rundown:

Friday night I met up with friends for a fun and delicious dinner at Jacques-Imo's (read about that and other yummy restaurants here), where we not only indulged in way too much corn bread and free shots from our waitress, but also became incredibly amused spectators of a Bachelor party! New Orleans is literally the only place on earth that I can think of where men can play strip poker in a restaurant. Yes, I said Strip Poker. Never have I ever seen grown men walking around a restaurant in nothing but boxers, but I guess I can now check that off my list (if it was even on it in the first place?) Kept it low key at Monkey Hill after dinner for the perfect ending to a Friday night.

On my actual list (that previously did not include half-naked bachelors), was taking in a Tulane Baseball game. Check! The day was perfectly sunny with low humidity, and luckily my partner in crime was willing to switch sides mid-game to even out our tans (and by tans I mean burns). The facilities are gorgeous, and the team's pretty good to watch. Missed the Miami traditions big time, but I will be entering my car in and subsequently winning the "Dirtiest Car in the Lot" contest next time. Free car wash, here I come. Before the game I attended an ERACISM meeting (check out the website here), technically for my internship, but it never ceases to disappoint in providing a thought-provoking start to my day.

Cafe Atchafalaya = awesome. Add it to your New Orleans gastronomic tour immediately. From the outside it looks like an older house, but the experience includes two-waiter service, which ran a bit slow, but was compensated for with free wine! The Gumbo appetizer was rich and flavorful and the pork tenderloin in mango chutney with market greens and corn bread pudding tasted heavenly. Following the meal was a stop at the Creole Creamery for some "Cookie Monster" ice cream, and a drive to Audubon park to take in the Super Moon. Car top down, the best company, good food, gorgeous moon, and I was a happy lady.

And finally, Sunday. After that moon last night, it is my belief that the Sun got a little jealous and decided to come out in full force. Staying inside was not an option, so I recruited some of my favorite Nola folk and headed to the Fly (pictured above) for a day of sunning and people watching right on the Mississippi River. Now, I am half a lobster, ready to indulge in my fridge full of leftovers for dinner.

A Mazel to those who made it through this post; writing is truly a catharsis, and all the better when pouring out positive feelings. I hope you had a great weekend too, and wish you an easy transition into the week ahead.

Friday, March 18, 2011

“Love is just a word until someone comes along and gives it meaning.” - Anonymous

Photo Courtesy: Flickr
Today is a special day. Three years and counting, I love the romance and feel of anniversaries; taking one day to make sure to tell someone you love them, even if you say it every day. But even more than that, it is a day to say thank you. Thank you for standing by my side, for making me laugh, for talking me off ledges, for being just plain awesome, and most of all, thank you for giving my notion of love the best meaning it could possibly have. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"And it's green, green, green, all the happy night and day" - Mary Elizabeth Blake

I like to get into the spirit of holidays, so last year, my roommate and I decided to get "creative" and make a green meal. Usually blogs show you the most beautiful photos of food and meals, but not this one. This experiment was absolutely hilarious, and I think the photo below shows why:

Photo: Rachel DeHayes, St. Patrick's Day Dinner Delight
Yup, those are two plates of all green food. Here's how we accomplished this gastronomic "delight":
  • Broccoli - innately green, fail-proof, nutritious and delicious
  • Mashed potatoes - instant potatoes was mistake number one, but too much food coloring led to the most unappetizing of colors
  • Chicken with Spinach - a) Spinach, also green and nutritious, therefore, success b) Chicken, coated in green-dyed egg and panko, tasted much better than it looks, I promise!
I'd rate the aesthetic appeal of the meal at about a 3, I'd give the taste a 7, and the overall experience a perfect 10! 

HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY and a cyber pinch to those not wearing green!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it." - Plato

Whoever says fitness is a "new" phenomenon is clearly in denial; because low and behold, even Plato, the great Greek philosopher, believed in the power of physical activity as a means to preserve the human body and general well-being.

I mean, look at the svelte figure Plato boasted in his hey-day:

Plato, the athlete! Photo Courtesy:
No doubt he has rock-hard abs under the cloak. OK, just kidding, but in all seriousness, I agree that we should value exercise, health, and fitness. Particularly after my "lack of activity" this Mardi Gras season, I have officially hit the pavement running! No pun intended. 

My latest fitness obsession is called Les Mills Body Pump, and it will kick your booty! It is one hour of pure weight-lifting cardio, set to high energy music. See the hard bodies in action below:

Les Mills Body Pump, Photo Courtesy:
Body Pump two times a week, plus runs and basic weight training two other days a week, and I hope to preserve, and even maybe even improve the condition of my body as we enter the summer months. And, if I keep it up, maybe I'll live to 105 years-old like the lovely woman I saw celebrating her birthday today at the Kingsley House in New Orleans. Fingers crossed!

Monday, March 14, 2011

“You will never win if you never begin.” - Helen Rowland

Calculating Risk, photo courtesy Flickr
Time for a confession: I'm a 'fraidy cat. There, I said it. Yup, I'm a play by the rules, check everything twice, plan in advance, cost-benefit analysis kind of girl, and 99.9% of the time, I'm proud of it. But, what I'm learning, is that 0.01% of risk-taking generally pays off.

For example, learning to ride a bike. Sure, you get a few scratches here and there, but in the end, you can ride around the neighborhood, wind in your hair, free from elementary responsibilities until sundown. Or how about trying new food: While octopus sounds gross and slimy, it is actually delicious, and you can brag about being adventurous and eating octopus. Or finally, what about applying for that dream job for which you may not technically have enough experience? You run the risk of a "thanks, but no thanks" letter, but think about if you actually get it? Risk. Action. Win.

So, logically, the greater the risk, or, the greater opposition to even taking the risk from the beginning, the greater the success of the win, right? Hmm... ok, still on the fence about that one, but I definitely agree with this logic: you can't win if you don't play the game. And with a calculated strategy, sure, I'll play.

Friday, March 11, 2011

"A good book has no ending." - R.D. Cumming

I love this quote because I interpret it to mean that a truly great book stays on your mind far after the time you finished reading it. There are some books whose main character's name I can barely even remember, and then there are others that I could practically recite pages from. And the latter, those are the ones worth reading. Some of my recent favorite page turners include, but are by no means limited to:

So, yesterday, sitting in a car service repair lobby for over five hours had its definite downsides, but it also gave me plenty of time to delve into and finish my latest read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (yes, I know, I'm a little late with this one, but it was really good). I love the feeling of losing yourself in a book and having it take over your mind to the point where you can't focus on anything else. Good thing it is Spring Break, otherwise my reading session from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. this morning would have been completely unacceptable.

Even though I just finished my last book only hours ago, I'm already jones'n for my next one. Here are a few of the books on my list for future reading:

What other suggestions do you all have? Any favorites that have "never ended" for you? I'm always looking for a good read!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"C'mon take me to the Mardi Gras" - Paul Simon

Mardi Gras, the heart and soul of New Orleans culture has officially come and gone. As a Mardi Gras virgin, I anxiously anticipated the season, and to my delight, not a second of it was a disappointment. The parades, the block parties, the masses of people, the food, the costumes, the drinks, the company, and the beads, oh my! For those unfamiliar, Mardi Gras is not just a day, or even a weekend - it is a season. Technically, it begins on the Christian celebration of Epiphany and lasts through the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, meaning that this year, the season was eight and a half weeks long, with celebration reaching its climax about five days before Fat Tuesday. Come along as we hit some of the highlights of New Orleans' pride and joy:

Before embarking on a four day marathon of parades and parties, you have to fuel up. We decided to start with a New Orleans classic: the Po'Boy. This shrimp Po'Boy (foreground) from Domilise's was to die for with a perfect balance of fried shrimp and endless dressing. The Roast Beef Po'Boy (background) was also a hit with a flavorful and spicy Creole Mustard. 

St. Charles Avenue, typically the picturesque thoroughfare with Plantation-style homes and famous green Streetcar, turned into a full-on block party. Though the street was technically not closed to traffic, locals and visitors came out with tents, grills, coolers, and costumes to stake out a prime bead-catching spot along the Avenue. Also, note the colorful ladders with wooden boxes on top, which are traditional seats for children looking for throws from the floats.

BEADS. BEADS. BEADS. Over the weekend we joked that we all had "Bead Fever," calling and waving for Krewe members to throw beads off their floats and into our hands. As the Krewes and floats evolved throughout the weekend, so did the throws, ranging from traditional purple, yellow, and green plastic beads, to toys, shoes, giant necklaces, and even erotic paraphernalia attached to said beads! And, just as one might expect, earning these beads becoming a more daunting task as the crowds increase, so it pays (in beads) to get creative. Also, I learned that you should never pick up beads off the ground, as a) it's dirty, but more importantly b) it is considered bad luck! 

Part of celebrating Mardi Gras is dressing in costume. Each Krewe has a Masquerade Ball following their parade where they dress in extravagant garb and get their party on. Some people go all out even on the streets, with body paint, wigs, and whatever else you can imagine. Though I didn't make it to a Ball, I did partake in the tradition, wearing a traditional Mardi Gras mask, managing to hold on to it for the whole weekend.

The Floats were incredible. Think Disney, but not Disney, because it definitely was not rated G. Each Krewe's parade has a theme and has anywhere from 10 - 20+ floats with members dressed in costume throwing beads to the crowds. I have to admit I had such a bad case of Bead Fever that my photos are lacking, but I think you get the idea from the floats above! 

Yup, those are people standing in trash. And not for fun, but truly because that is what the streets looked like after each day of parades. Street cleaners come through to try to clear the streets, but let me say, they better get paid a ton for that futile effort! Lesson learned: beads pose as challenging obstacles, as they slip and slide under your feet when trying to walk. Walk with caution. 

Total distance walked in one day: 6.32 miles. Multiply that times two, maybe three. Driving is impossible, and lets be honest, we had to walk off those Po'Boys and beers. 

Mardi Gras is definitely a marathon, not a sprint, and true exhaustion takes over moments after celebrating the last parade. But all in all, it was an amazing experience shared with incredible people. I've got a few more items on my Mardi Gras bucket list, but for my first year, it was a successful adventure I'll never forget. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

"Happiness is never stopping to think if you are." - Palmer Sondreal

Things that make me happy:

  • Eating warm chocolate cake fresh from the microwave - that's right - microwave! Check out this amazing 5 minute cake recipe
  • Watching cheesy chick-flicks like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (now playing on Bravo = awesome)
  • Spending rainy days spent cleaning and singing along to itunes shuffle
  • Searching for gorgeous vintage photo-finds in the commons at flickr, like these fabulous fashionistas sunbathing above
  • Flipping the calendar page to the day I've been looking forward to for almost a whole year!
Going on a blogging hiatus for the next few days to observe the very important New Orleanian holiday that is Mardi Gras! 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"The friendship that can cease has never been real" - Saint Jerome

In light of all of the craziness going on this week, I wanted to do a light, fluffy post. However, I found this quote and, honestly, I could not stop thinking about it.

Is it true then? That if a friendship is over, it was never really a friendship to begin with? How could that possibly be? So, the moments, photos, stories, that I've shared with people I may not be in touch with, those are just people; random acquaintances who happened to have the same experience as me? I am disturbed by the thought.

I have had many friendships, great and small, that somehow, whether over time or situation, have dissolved. And while this is tragic in its own way, it is life, and it happens. Yet, regardless of the current state, I still consider it friendship. There existed a mutual feeling of good company and relatability (which is apparently not a word? Dictionary, get on it!) that I consider the very core of a friendship between two people.

Therefore, Saint Jerome, I think this is a pessimistic view of the human spirit. I mean, why squash the past just because it isn't in the present? Especially, since you never know what will come in the future. With the ease of communication through fifty-seven million (made-up number) social networking arenas,  rekindling a friendship is as easy as the click of a button. Or a poke. What's up Facebook.

So, dear readers, what do you think? Is the end of a friendship a sign that it was never a real friendship to begin with? I'm going back to my roots and asking, what's your interpretation?