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NOLA Quickie

2 Nov

Greetings!  Kevin and I just got back from a quick trip to New Orleans for Halloween.  The weekend flew by in this city full of history, unique architecture excellent food, hurricanes (tropical and of the over 21 variety), zombies, ghosts, jazz, and good times.

We took a few tours while we were there, and I definitely learned quite a bit about this port city.  The city was under French rule, then Spanish, then French, and ultimately belonged to the US after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.   The interesting history makes NOLA what it is today.

One of the tours we took was a bicycle tour through some of the residential areas.  The majority of the houses were of a French design called “shotgun” homes.  The French did not believe in hallways; they thought they were a waste of space, so these homes have back to back rooms (not the greatest for privacy).  Basically, you can stand at the front door, fire a shotgun through the house, and the bullet would exit the back door without hitting any walls.  This design was to help with airflow for their sweltering summers.

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In the photo above you can see a double shotgun on the left and a single on the right.  Has anyone gone in one of these houses?  We didn’t get to tour one, so I am curious what they would be like inside.

We did get to tour The Hermann-Grima House, which is a historic Federal Mansion in the French Quarter.

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The home had a lot of the original furnishings from the 1800’s, which was really neat to see.  Unfortunately we were unable to take photos inside, but here is the exterior:

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One of the most impressive places in New Orleans was definitely Jackson Square.  This is the home to St. Louis Cathedral, museums, shops, apartments, and countless artists.

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I had big plans to purchase some one of a kind art, but it didn’t happen in the end.

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There were some beautiful pieces to choose from.

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We did manage to consume a lot of food and drinks,

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Kevin ate a lot of raw oysters.  I wasn’t brave enough to slurp any down.  Have you indulged in them before?


We did enjoy the sounds of some soulful musicians…

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Of all ages…

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And there were quite a few strange sites to see considering it was Halloween Weekend.  Maybe the most interesting sighting was Sasquatch….


Yes ladies…that is my husband!  Now aren’t you all jealous!?  Winking smile


24-Carat Windows?

7 Sep

Can you believe that the Trump Hotel Las Vegas is gilded with 24-Carat gold?  Me neither.

Me outside our hotel

Kevin and I just returned from four glamorous nights at this lavish resort…then again, it was Vegas.

Trump Las Vegas at night

Golden Glow

The lobby of the hotel was super sparkly and beautiful.

Is there any way I can put these chandeliers in our house?

My favorite part of the hotel was probably the pool:


More gold...even on the water fountains!

I spent a few hours catching some rays; I wonder if all that gold helped me get my nice tan.

Aside from getting some much-needed relaxation at the pool, Kevin and I toured a Neon Sign Museum; it was pretty awesome.

Neon Graveyard

Basically it was a large lot that stored vintage signs that date back to the original Las Vegas.  The museum is run by a non-profit group that restores the signs to their original glory.  One of their finished signs is this cute high heel from the Silver Slipper Casino (it is on display just outside the neon graveyard):

The original Silver Slipper

We learned the interesting history of the sign on our tour.  Apparently Howard Hughes lived across the street from the Silver Slipper Casino and this sparkly shoe would rotate around and shine into his window all night long.  Hughes was convinced that he was being spied on by the government.  Instead of shutting his curtains he opted to purchase the Silver Slipper Casino for $5.4 million, fill the shoe with concrete, and stop its rotation.  That’s awesome.

Check out their website to learn more and to see more of their photos.  We had to sign a waiver that stated we would not show our pics on-line.  We hope to make some great art with our photos so hopefully I can show you what we come up with later.

The highlight of our trip was our first wedding anniversary.  Kevin and I renewed our wedding vows with Elvis; how could we resist, it was Vegas?!  After our Viva Las Vegas ceremony we had a wonderful dinner at Le Cirque in the Bellagio.  It was the best dinner E-V-E-R.  I think our desserts speak for themselves:



We didn’t win any money, but a good time was had by all!

Kevin and I before brunch at the Wynn

Have you been to Vegas?  What is your favorite part?  The glamorous hotels and casinos?  Or do you like the hiking, sight-seeing, or fine dining better?  Kate over at Centsational Girl visited the desert of Vegas this past weekend; perhaps Kevin and I will check out that side of Sin City next time!

This weekend the party is at Serenity Now:
Weekend Bloggy Reading

Favorite Things

31 Aug

Today I am partying with Kate and all the others at Centsational Girl, where the topic is favorite things in my town.

favorite things link party button

Seven months ago Kevin and I moved from a city of 9.5 million, to a town of 19,000.   Our new little town is so lovely; I almost don’t miss the big city.

Here is my simple list of my favorite things so far:

  • Every Sunday in the summer we have a farmers market where we can buy fresh veggies, flowers and dairy products from near by farmers.  Do you have a farmers market in your town?

Farmers Market

  • Every Wednesday night we have a classic car show that draws quite the crowd.  It is just a couple blocks from our house and gives us something to do during the boring work week!

Cary Cruise Night Banner

  • Our home is also just a couple blocks from the train that can take us to the big busy city (for work or when I am missing it)

Train stop

  • We have THE BEST burger place for miles and miles called ‘Tracks.’  The menu is quite extensive; they offer over 20 gourmet burgers and various other bar fare.  It is hands down the best burger I have ever had; better than a little place in Chicago called Kumas Corner (which was actually on Diners Drive-Ins and Dives, and has also been featured in other TV shows and magazines).  You need to get to Tracks early or there will be a wait…but the wait is worth it!  Where have you had a great burger?  Or maybe a fantastic hot dog?

Gourmet Burgers

All of the above images were taken from

  • My very favorite thing in our town is the beautiful old homes.  Our street has many historic homes, but surely my favorite is ours:

    Our little piece of Americana...

That’s all I got after just 7 months here.   I am sure next year I will be able to think of a few more!

Before you go back to Centsational Girl, check out my post about being a tourist in your own town, where Kevin and I went back to visit Chicago a few weeks ago!

Tourist in your own town

19 Aug

Last weekend Kevin and I decided to be tourists in our own town.  Kevin grew up in the city of Chicago and I lived there for about 7 or 8 years after growing up about 20 miles outside the city.  It has only been about 7 months since we have moved (learn a little about that here), but there is always something new to see in the Windy City.  With summer quickly coming to a close (can you believe August is already half over?!), we needed to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather.

After we met our friends for Sunday brunch (and bottomless mimosas & a bloody mary bar), we headed to see the Tall Ships:

Tall Ships Chicago

Tall Ships at Chicago Navy Pier

Look at all those ropes!

It was really cool to see the pirate-like ships against the back drop of the big city.

Ships at sea

There is so much to see at Navy Pier (I suppose that is why it is the biggest tourist attraction that Chicago has)…

Navy Pier

Beer Garden where a live band was playing

There was also a sailing regatta going on...

The above pic doesn’t show it, but the water was really rough;  I thought some of the sail boats were going to tip right over!

Ferris wheel on a very windy day??

I love this photo of the ferris wheel that Kevin took.  Read more about the first Ferris wheel at Chicago’s Worlds Fair in 1893 here.

Navy Pier also has a stained glass museum that has some beautiful works of art.

Unfortunately I can not recall the artist, but it is so detailed and unique

Stained glass of St. Patrick

Original work from Dale Tiffany

The Tiffany windows were just amazing.  Kevin can make stained glass windows so he knows quite a bit about the art.  Apparently the glass Tiffany used was very unique.  He created a way to bake the color into the pane of glass (it looks like it is painted on, but apparently the color is inherent to the piece)…it was really quite beautiful.

After Navy Pier we headed back to the train station, but saw something interesting on the way:

Marilyn Monroe!

A gigantic Marilyn statue.  How funny is that?

Marilyn Monroe in Chicago

I guess it is pretty windy in Chicago!

Maybe this weekend you can be a tourist in your own town!  Let me know what you have planned =)

La Fortuna & Monteverde, Costa Rica

27 Jun

Happy Monday Everyone!  It is officially summer and I have had vacation on my mind!  Every summer as a child my parents, brother and I would take a family vacation.  Whether it was the Wisconsin Dells or Disney World, we were always headed somewhere in the big ol’ station wagon.  Hopefully Kevin and I will be able to do this when we have kids, but for now or vacations are full of a little more adventure.  My favorite place that Kevin and I have visited was probably La Fortuna and Monteverde, Costa Rica.   We took a trip to Costa Rica a couple years ago on a whim seeking to see something new and exciting, and we definitely got what we asked for.

We landed in San Jose pretty late in the evening, maybe 10 or 11 PM.  This is not a city you want to be in after dark, and certainly not a place you want to get lost in…in the dark…where you do not speak the language.  Needless to say we survived that night (after about 3 hours of driving in circles, an accidental drive by through the red light district, and an encounter with the San Jose police).  Oh….but it was worth it for the rest of the trip.  Lesson learned:  arrive during daylight and either make sure you have exact directs to your hotel or stay across the street from the airport!  Kevin and I tried to find Hotel Grano de Oro (A tropical victorian mansion turned hotel), finally gave up and ended up back at the airport paying for the same night twice at the Holiday Inn.  We did manage to find the amazing mansion on our return trip; it was WONDERFUL, but let me tell you about the rest of the trip….

The first stop on our Central American adventure was La Fortuna, a beautiful city with (what was/prior to 2010) an active volcano named Arenal.  Apparently the volcano has been “sleeping” since July 2010, but when we were there it was erupting just slightly everyday.  Kevin and I stayed at Arenal Observatory Lodge, a hotel that was originally built for researchers tracking the volcanos actvity.  Our room had a huge picture window and it looked out to the volcano.

Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano viewed from our room

We were able to see the lava flowing out each night; it was pretty cool…it looked somewhat like fireworks!

La Fortuna was just beautiful.  Monkeys in the trees, natural hot springs, exotic flowers, and random animals running around everywhere (I don’t know what these were…maybe leemers?  I am sure Kevin knows; he is in the other room right now or I would ask him).

These little guys were everywhere!

Tropical Plants Galore!

And there was even a hanging bridge!  Little did we know this was the first of many we would see on our journey…

Hanging Bridge at Arenal Observatory Lodge

The rest of the bridges we found were in Monteverde, Costa Rica…the next stop on our tour.  Monteverde is 4, 662 ft above sea level; high enough that it is in the clouds of the rain forest.  From my (little) understanding that is why it is called a cloud forest.  In Monteverde Kevin and I stayed at the (I am willing to put money on this) the best hotel in the whole entire world, Hidden Canopy Treehouse Hotel.   Talk about inspiration.  This place was like a dream.  Our treehouse (named Rising Sun) was just beautiful inside:

Hidden Canopy Treehouse

Our house for a few nights!

The house swayed as the wind blew and we awoke to the sounds of monkeys right outside our window.

Another view of the treehouse

Monteverde is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the scenery…

That kitty is livin' the life!

Or explore on foot…

Suspension Bridges through the Cloud Forest

I can hardly read that sign, but let me tell you, these bridges were REALLY high in the air…and while they appear stable they sure did move as you walked across them!  Once you got about half way across the (what seemed endless ) bridge you started to have second thoughts about crossing.  What fun we had scaring ourselves half to death!

Kevin and I on a Hanging Bridge in Monteverde

Once we had our feet back on land we could also enjoy all the beautiful flowers growing in this area also.  Here are just a couple of my favorites (I don’t want to bore you!)

Lady Slipper

It’s a shoe, it’s a flower…it’s a lady slipper orchid!  Kevin and I went to a huge orchid farm while we were there.  They even had the tiniest species of orchid…you had to use a magnifying glass to view it!


I love it!  We found that flower in the the rain forest.  Writing this post reminds me that I wanted to make some of these floral prints for our bedroom (here, here and here).  So much to do so little time!

After leaving the treehouse (boo hoo), we packed up and took a ferry to the beach.  That was beautiful also:

Ahhh...wish I was there right now!

After the beach we were back to San Jose.  Thankfully this time we found the original hotel.  All this talk of vacation makes me want to take one, I better go book some plane tickets to our next exotic local…

This post was inspired by the link party at Centsational Girl =)  Check it out and have a great Monday!