Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"The summer night is like a perfection of thought." - Wallace Stevens

This quote gave me the chills, I think it is so beautiful. Growing up in Florida, I can think of very few things I'd rather do than eat Key Lime Pie on the beach on a summer evening. Perfection.

For many across the country, it is still a tease of Spring; but for me, it is pretty much full-on Summer! I'm headed out on a vacation back to my home state for a family visit in Orlando and then a college reunion in Miami. So, as I pack, the only thought on my mind is INSERT ME HERE:
Florida Keys Sunset | Photo by Rachel DeHayes
Happy (almost) Summer!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves." — Thomas Wolfe

Probably until yesterday, I would have scoffed at this Thomas Wolfe quote and called it sexist. Today, I still believe that there are many spectacles on earth more appealing than that of a woman in the kitchen, but I can admit that I see his point. I've never really envisioned myself as a future homemaker - instead, often imagining myself in high heels and power suits clicking along the busy city sidewalk to get to my next meeting - but with the time I've had off this past week, I began to dabble in some of those homemaking duties. Cleaning aside, because let's be honest, I find cleaning and organization a stress coping mechanism, I've mostly been doing a lot of cooking!

It started with a grocery shopping fail: stocking up on perishables when I forgot I'd be leaving for vacation. I had all of these delicious ingredients in my house with no time to eat them, so I began cooking for others. Somehow over a few short days, I accomplished a beautifully medium rare roast beef with roasted potatoes, a spring pasta salad, spinach stuffed chicken rollatini with olive oil dressed pasta, and a homemade banana bread. And it all felt great. I definitely value the effort many women put in to making a lovely home for their families, because knowing that you are cooking for someone who is truly appreciative really does feel good. 
Joy of Baking Easy Banana Bread Recipe - It's so easy, I had all the ingredients around the house!

1 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 ripe large bananas, mashed well (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; butter (or spray) and flour 9 x 5 x 3 baking pan.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nuts (toasting optional). In a separate bowl, combine eggs, butter, mashed bananas, and vanilla extract. Lightly fold the wet ingredients in with the dry ingredients. Batter should not be smooth, but thick and chunky. Scrape batter into pan, and bake between 55 and 60 minutes until the bread is golden brown. Test the bread with a toothpick to make sure it is done. Rest pan on a cooling rack, remove bread, and serve! 

I'm going to continue to enjoy my stint as a homemaker before I get back to the grind of school and work. But now I know, I guess I do have a little bit of Betty Crocker meets Desperate Housewife in me after all! 

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Commas: They Save Lives!

This made me giggle! Grammar is great.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"She got the medicine that everybody wants" - Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

Grace Potter on the Organ | Photo: Rachel DeHayes
I was grumpy. Then I turned on my Grace Potter and the Nocturnals playlist, and it is truly amazing how much better I feel! Music really does a soul good; especially music from amazingly talented musicians like GPN. I was lucky enough to not only snag tickets to her sold-out show here at the New Orleans House of Blues, but also to stake out prime reality in the front row directly in front of her organ. GPN on itunes + reminiscing about the show = much happier Rachel. Here's hoping you all find the "medicine" too! 
Grace singing to ME! | Photo: Rachel DeHayes

GPN Set List for the NOLA show

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined." - Henry David Thoreau

SURPRISE! After my short hiatus following the photo malfunction, the time has come to reveal my favorite quote of all time. I first heard this quote in high school when we studied Transcendentalism and read works by Emerson, Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, and other greats, and it has stuck with me ever since.

Its overt optimism is part of my connection to the quote, even in the simple, yet transformative use of an exclamation point rather than a period, comma, or semi-colon. The message is clear, yet profound: if you can dream it, you can do it, and don't just think about it, get it done. This quote is a reminder of the power of the mind, and all of its creativity, intuition, and determination.

Before I left for college, my mom gave me the journal pictured above. Ironically, I've never actually written in it. Instead, the pages are stuffed with special letters, drawings, ticket stubs, and other mementos from over the years. Also, my best friend from high school surprised me a few years later with a pretty necklace inscribed with Thoreau's thoughts. Whenever I begin to feel bogged down in the day-today, I pull out the journal or the necklace and hold its message close, determined to continue living the life I imagined!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Be firm on principle but flexible on method." - Zig Ziglar

I was set and ready to write about my favorite quote of all time today, but due to a technological malfunction of the image uploader on Blogger, I will now withhold it until further notice. Bummer. So instead, I'm being flexible. See that, Zig Ziglar? I'm still posting on my blog, although photo-free, but I'm still here nonetheless!

Even though it seems I found this quote by default, I actually really like its meaning. It reminds me of the saying, "let the ends justify the means," but without the harsh Machiavellian connotation. I feel like it applies to each of us on a daily basis; even as we interact with one another, it is not uncommon to change the conversation style, persuasion tactic, body language, and so on, in order to achieve the ultimate goal of connection. Of course I can also see where this notion applies to concrete tasks, after all, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again!

I think the key word in this quote is principle. And defining a "principle" is such a large concept for my tired brain, but I really think 'ol Ziggy is on to something... No wonder he has a kabillion dollar motivational speaking empire. Ultimately, I think the point is to stick to your guns, but on the big stuff like on the values, ethics, and morals behind the actions, rather than the actions themselves. Because after all, methods change, but people rarely do.

P.S. Did you spot the extra colloquialisms today? Guess that means its time to rest this sleepy keppie...

Monday, April 11, 2011

"Life isn't a matter of milestones, but of moments." -Rose Kennedy

The Thinking Spot, Audubon Park | Photo: Rachel DeHayes
I am a firm believer in celebrating milestones; I love birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and all major moments in life. Yet, I often find that the memories that make me stop and smile are not always these special occasions, but rather tiny moments that shine through the drone of the day-to-day. Don't get me wrong, remembering special dinners, gifts, parties, events and the like all make me smile, but so do the little things, like strolling in the park, playing Scrabble for hours, unintended stories from girls nights in, and even a moment shared through a wink, a smile, a hug, or a kiss. Sometimes those milestones produce the best moments, but sometimes, those moments happen all on their own. For better or for worse, those, my friends, are the moments of life.

Friday, April 8, 2011

"Short is the joy that guilty pleasure brings." - Euripides

Sorry Euripides, I know you are a great Greek tragedian and all, but isn't that a bit harsh? I can see your point when the guilty pleasure has deep-rooted moral consequences, but when I think guilty pleasure, I think things like the Real Housewives series, trashy magazines, extreme bargain shopping...and oh yah...PEEPS.

After weeks of hemming and hawing about whether or not to buy some Peeps (aka the yellow, delicious candy-coated Marshmallow Chicks), I broke down and did it. But to my surprise, the woman at the cash register informed me that I was the first, let me repeat, first, person she'd seen buy Peeps since they got them in! WHAT?! Easter is in two weeks, and I - the one who doesn't even celebrate the holiday - am the first person to indulge in this Spring delight? What a travesty!

So, it got me thinking: do people just really detest Peeps (I don't know how you could...) or, is it something bigger? Are people refraining from indulging in those little guilty pleasures? Since I still fall victim to the fleeting joy of a mid-afternoon nap or an hour of trashy TV, I'm inclined to believe its not the latter, and therefore, I must be the only person in New Orleans who likes Peeps. But enough about my guilty pleasure...its Friday, prime indulgence day! What are you favorite guilty pleasures? I always love a new dirty little secret! 

Monday, April 4, 2011

"A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking." Jerry Seinfeld

I love writing. I love reading. I love books. I love bookstores. I love Jerry Seinfeld's take on bookstores, and I completely agree. It is easy to get caught up in all of the technology (see my entry on how Google is taking over the world HERE), but bookstores are a place to be one with your own thoughts and the thoughts of the greats.

So, this weekend, my friend had the brilliant idea to play tourist in our city and take a trip down to the French Quarter. And while my first thought was, cool, we'll take the streetcar, maybe eat a beignet, take in a street performer, typical touristy stuff, she had a far better plan: to take in the one-of-a-kind galleries on Royal Street, bookstores on Pirates Alley, and fresh food from the French Market! While the Organic Banana stand in the French Market made a killer Strawberry Daiquiri and Pina Colada, it was the two bookstores we discovered that was the highlight of our tour.

The first bookstore we went to is called Faulkner House Books and is located along Pirate's Alley in the heart of the French Quarter. The photo above does not do the store justice by any means; rather, this bookstore is like walking into the Beast's library in the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. A gorgeous room, floor to ceiling with books ordered perfectly atop antique-looking mahogany bookshelves, set off by elegant lighting from a stunning chandelier. The owner of the shop sat in the corner of the room, offering spot-on recommendations to her customers. It was truly magical. My B&N Nook has some serious competition.
On the other hand, we also found the Arcadian Books & Prints store located at 714 Orleans Avenue in the French Quarter. Once again, my photo does not clearly depict the store's atmosphere, but it's pretty close. Though equally impressive in its collection, I affectionately dubbed the Arcadian bookstore a "Hoarder's Heaven" due to the sheer depth and height of the book stacks! While this store didn't have the magical elegance of the first, it had a charm that I truly do love. It is clear that the owner of this store has a passion for books, and also relies on his customers to have that same passion, likely with a side of patience. I could easily spend hours paging through the new, used, and antique volumes in the store, but I wouldn't recommend it when looking for something specific. 

With large chains like Borders closing, and e-readers popping up everywhere (guilty as charged) it makes my heart sing that independent bookstores, like these, thrive in the midst of technology's progress. Nothing can replace the touch, smell, or feeling of curling up with a real, live book!