Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lights of Christmas

Last night, we went with my mother-in-law to a huge holiday light display. Took us about an hour to walk through it. My pictures won't do it justice, but I thought I would share anyway!

This is the entryway:

The boys in front of a blue-lit tree.                     

Golden Koi and its reflection

Pretty tree

Close-up of boys in front of blue tree

Chandeliers hanging in the trees:



Saturday, December 27, 2008

Good holiday memories

We had a great Christmas. Things began a little rocky when my husband began to feel ill on Christmas Eve, just when we were finishing up the last wrappings and getting the boys off to bed so Santa could visit. He was seriously ill, vomiting and diarrhea. My husband is pretty stoic usually, won't take an aspirin for a headache most times. He was having a rough time of it this time. I felt so bad for him. He ended up falling asleep in the recliner around 9:30 p.m. I just left him there when I went to bed around 1 a.m.

However, before he fell asleep, Gilbert had managed to hook up the big Santa gift, a Wii, to the TV in the playroom. It's a small TV, but it is perfect for the boys to play games on and not take up my living room all the time! Anyway, Gilbert got the Wii ready for action, and then wrapped each of the three remotes separately (in wrapping paper not used for any other presents) and stuck them under the tree without tags. Then he fell asleep and I finished up wrapping his presents, did the stockings, and went to bed.

Gilbert came to our bed around 5 a.m., followed by Jacob at 5:30, who wanted to know if he could get up. I told him to go back to bed and wait until at least 6:30. What do you know, he did! I could hear him and his brothers talking, but they stayed in their beds until 6:30. Then did they hit the ground running!

So, let the festivities begin! The boys began passing out presents, opening then, and having a good old time. They finally happened upon the three wrapped Wii remotes, and couldn't figure out whose presents they were because "they aren't tagged!" I suggested that since there were three identical presents, maybe - just maybe - they were intended for them! Aha! That made some sense, so they proceeded to unwrap them. Jacob got his open before his brothers and was excited at first, then confused. "A Wii remote? Why would Santa get us Wii remotes? We don't have a Wii!" I was biting my tongue to keep from laughing. They kept going on and on about how it would be a great gift, if they had a Wii. Finally, I think it sank in that this couldn't be all there was to it. Then they started looking around. One of them opened the door to the playroom, followed by his brothers close on his heels, and there it was, in all its glory. They yelled, hollered, jumped for joy, danced a jig and even hugged each other! Such wild excitement! And , of course, they set to playing immediately...and pretty much haven't stopped. It is fun to watch, and fun to play, too. Had to test it out, doncha know?!

I got a new digital camera, which I wanted but didn't expect. Gilbert didn't get my gifts wrapped because he was sick (and because he waits until the last minute - see previous entry!). He felt badly about it, but id didn't bother me. It is just nice to get the presents! Haha!

We had a great, relaxing day, playing on the Wii and just bumming around. Later that evening we went to my in-laws' for Christmas dinner, where we had good fellowship and conversation, the boys racked up on Barnes and Noble gift cards and movie passes, and where we ate some wonderful food. It is always good to be with family.

Gilbert started feeling poorly again after we got home. Part of it was exhaustion, I think. We were all tired. The boys went straight to bed when we got home, and we followed soon after. I think everyone was sleeping by 10:00! A great ending to a great day, even though Gilbert was still puny. 

Some pictures of our day:

Jacob, Matthew, Andrew

handmade glass snowflake, created by Matthew

My guys, Christmas morning

Realizing Santa brought them a Wii!!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Adrenalin Junkie

That is the only explanation. My husband must be an adrenalin junkie! Why else would he wait until 3 days before Christmas to BEGIN his shopping? Especially this year, when he has had more consecutive free time at home in the last three months than in the last three years? He left this morning to be out the whole day, shopping. Oh, and did I mention he is a big Scrooge when it comes to crowds, so he will most likely be in a dandy mood when he gets home! Well, I guess he is a grown man. He did this to himself (but he did it to me, too! lol) He just better not make me suffer for it when he gets home.

That said, I love the bum.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

So proud!

All of my boys are taking piano lessons, and tonight was the Christmas party/recital. It was at the piano teacher's house, fairly informal, lots of party, a little bit of recital. This was the first time for Andrew and Jacob to play in front of anyone but their teacher or our family. They did so well! Didn't seem the least bit nervous! Andrew played Silent Night, and Jacob played We Wish You A Merry Christmas. Jacob was last, and the teacher had everyone sing the second time he played it. 

Matthew played also. This wasn't his first recital, but he hasn't done one in about a year, maybe more, so he was nervous. At least that is what he said. You couldn't tell it by looking at him! He had to play first, and his  piece was It Came Upon the Midnight Clear. He played beautifully!

I sang, also. It was a family affair! All we needed was Gilbert performing, and it would have been the entire family. I sang a lovely piece by Leo Sowerby titled Little Jesus, Sweetly Sleep. It is one of my favorites. I have performed it for the past two or three years at this party. The piano teacher loves it, too. She also asked me to sing a song called Old Toy Trains. I accompanied myself on the autoharp, and sang it mostly for the boys. Roger Miller wrote it, and it is a sweet, sweet song. You should look it up on google or youtube sometime and give it a listen! I hope to make a Christmas cd next year, and maybe I will put it on there. Gotta figure out copyright stuff first.

Anyway, the party was lovely, the food was great, the boys were fabulous, and we all had a wonderful time.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Saved in the nick of time

Last night, I thought dinner was doomed for sure. Spiraling down into the abyss of grumpiness that was Matthew. He had an issue that he just would not let go - thought he was being treated unfairly. Short story, his brother did something he wasn't supposed to do, then Matthew thought he should be allowed to do it. Ummm, no. We didn't allow Jacob to do it, he just did it. And got scolded for it, by the way. So, hell-to-the-no, you cannot do it too!! UGH!

But, lo and behold, all was saved in the nick of time! Andrew, with a mouth full of food, mumbled something that came out pretty much gobbledy-gook. Now, normally, he would have gotten the speech about talking with food in his mouth. But the mood was so dark already. Then Big Daddy, aka husband, chuckled. And repeated it back. Which made GrumpyPants, aka Matthew, giggle. I felt the mood lightening! So, of course, I have to go in for the kill, which meant telling stories of more incoherent speech, usually made by the boys at night while sleepwalking. They, having no memory of such things, thought this was hilarious. Oh, there was also the story of Husband and me waking up to find Matthew in our doorway, pretty much asleep, getting ready to pee. Thought he was in the bathroom, I guess! Anyway, riotous laughter and giggles was our dinner music for pretty much the rest of the meal. Hallelujah!

At one point, things had quieted down a bit (everyone was tired from laughing), when I hear Andrew going on about something. Went sorta like this:

"We ain't had nothing but maggoty bread for t'ree stinkin' days! Why can't we have some meat?!" 

Yes, Lord of the Rings rules at my house. For the next 15 minutes or so, Andrew, Jacob and Big Daddy recite every line in the scene from Two Towers where the Uruk-hai have kidnapped Pippin and Merry, and have stopped to rest. Some of the nasty guys want to eat the hobbits because

"We ain't had nothing but maggoty bread for t'ree stinkin' days! Why can't we have some meat?!" What about them, they're fresh!" "They are not for eating!"....all the way to "Looks like meat's back on the menu, boys!" (complete with accents)

It was rather impressive, I must say. And entertaining. Did I mention there were accents? 

So yes, Virginia, dinner was saved. In the nick of time. And we made some really fun memories in the process!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Get ready to make your brain ache!!

This is a brain-teaser that Matthew was given as math homework. It is hard! I am curious to have you try it, and see how you do! Please leave your answers in a comment when you have them. This should be fun!

Assign a value to each letter of the alphabet. Example: A=1, B=2, C=3, D=4, E=5, F=6, etc. See if you can come up with words whose letter values equal the given sum. Example: Write a three-letter word with a sum of 24. CAT (3+1+20)

1. Three-letter word with a sum of 15.
2. Four-letter word with a sum of 18.
3. Five-letter word with a sum of 24.
4. Three-letter word with a sum of 11.
5. Six-letter word with a sum of 32.
6. Six-letter word with a sum of 60.
7. Four-letter word with a sum of 22.
8. Three-letter word with a sum of 35.
9. Five-letter word with a sum of 77.
10. Any length word with a sum of 50.
11. Any length word with a sum of 100.
12. Any length word with a sum of 130.
13. Three-word sentence with a sum of 100.
14. Four-word sentence with a sum of 200.
15. Five-word sentence with a sum of 300.

Matthew is convinced that all of the single-word answers are supposed to rhyme. I am not so sure. I think that would make it virtually impossible. It is hard enough already!

On your mark, get set, go!! Don't forget to share your answers.

Friday, December 12, 2008


I happened to stumble upon this while doing some random blog surfing. Sorry, don't even know from whence it came...apologies to said blogger. I would acknowledge you, could I only find you again! I went to cut and paste these, and somehow lost you. Mea culpa, mea culpa.

That said, and given my previous post regarding Jacob's familiarity with email acronyms, I just had to post these! Gotta love it!

TBBGIIMC - This Better Be Good - I'm Ignoring My Children
ISSBFMFTC - I Smell Smoke But First Must Finish This Comment
BE - Banner Envy
PWCEBB - Proceed With Caution: Extremely Bitter Blogger
JHTMF - Just Here To Mooch Followers
SICS - Seizure-Inducing Color Scheme
ECIZ - Extreme Crafts Intimidation Zone
UMO - Unwarranted Music Onslaught
CPA - Comment Performance Anxiety
INTGTTBFFH - I've Needed To Go To The Bathroom For Four Hours

Thursday, December 11, 2008

And I was like, OMG!

We were sitting at dinner tonight, having a pretty decent time of it, when Jacob (7) began to tell what happened at school today. To give a little background, Jacob and his brothers have all been taking piano. They seem to love it, if the constant battle over the piano is any indicator, and have readily learned to play each other's songs. Andrew and Jacob especially enjoy playing the other's Christmas piece. At high speed, usually, and with one or more deliberate bastardizations...that, however, is another blog entry.

Apparently, at some point in time, Jacob mentioned to his teacher that he plays piano. She, in turn, mentioned that he should play for the class some day. No more thought was given to it by Jacob...until this morning. His teacher suggested he play for his class while they were in the gym today (the piano is in a room off of the gym). He thought she was kidding, until she reassured him she meant it. And, in his very own words: "I was like, O M G!! She didn't mean that, did she?!?!" 

Now, here is the thing. Jacob is 7. And doesn't do email. Well, except to his grandmother, who has no idea, I am pretty certain, what OMG means. So I have no idea how on earth he has even heard of OMG, much less knows what it means. (I asked. He does. Oh My Gosh. At least it was the less offensive version.) I so wanted to LOL, and pretty much just ROFL. I restrained myself, FWIW. But it was sooo hard. 


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Better late than never!

Last night, the twins and I finally got around to making our traditional Christmas chain. You know, the one made of construction paper that lets you count down the days to Christmas by tearing off a loop each day? Yes, I know we were late getting it done, but I figured it still makes good memories, even if they only have 18 loops to tear off versus 25. We had a great time, and they were so excited, so I felt good about getting it done.

Matthew wasn't interested in helping with the chain, but he did ask if there was any homemade ornament I could think of that we could do together, just the two of us. Talk about being put on the spot! We don't have anything Christmas unpacked yet, so no ornaments were readily available to embellish. What to do, what to do?!?! I have some books on Christmas decorating - I know, ever the optimist! Anyway, I found a picture of a ribbon ornament, made to resemble ribbon candy, so that is what we did. If I can ever figure out how to add pictures to this blog, I will post one. But for a last-minute, throw-together project, it turned out really well. Navy blue, gold-edged wired ribbon - again, something I bought because it was lovely, and I had great aspirations of elaborate packages with gilded bows...yeah, right. Never used, and I bought it three or four years ago. Glad I did, now! More evidence of my misguided intentions - a multitude of beads intended for crafting and jewelry making - became the perfect embellishment to the ornament. (Yes, I have made jewelry and used the beads for other projects, but it has been a while!) 

At any rate, how ever it came about, I had a great time doing Christmas crafts with each of my children last night. Matthew, especially, seemed to really enjoy the one-on-one time, and later allowed that he really felt like he was getting into the Christmas spirit now.

I love my boys!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez! Day 4 - final day

Day 4 - November 16, 2008

Our last day in the Big Easy! We had already decided that we would do breakfast out, but we had to get up, pack our things, and get checked out first.  Got our bags loaded into our vehicle, then we were off! We strolled through the French Market again, looking at more souvenirs, even though we had decided to wait until we were on the way back to purchase anything. On our carriage tour, we had passed a restaurant called the Old Coffeepot, which our guide had given rave reviews, so we were planning to try that for breakfast/brunch. Made our way to it, but found that it was a long wait, with no place inside to get in from the cold. I am sure the food was great, but the dining area was very small, and the patio was not being used – again, too cold – and we were on a time schedule. Had a long drive ahead of us! So, we split up in search of more timely options. M and C went off to look while I waited for a while with D and S. After a bit, I went off in search of M and C, and met C heading back our way. We had passed a café on our way to the Old Coffeepot, and they were open and available to seat immediately, so that was where we decided to go – Café Pontalbo. M and C had already gotten us a table, so we were able to order before too long, and soon (at least sooner than if we had stayed at the Old Coffeepot) we were partaking of a great breakfast! Good thing, too, because I think we were all starving at this point!

After eating our fill, we headed back to the French Market to purchase some souvenirs. I don’t know what everyone got, but I bought some crazy jester hats and a small alligator skull for the boys. S got a mondo-sized alligator head for her house! It was so big it was kinda scary….ha ha! I think M got some bracelets for her girls. Someone else bought T-shirts, I think. Anyway, we each got our respective souvenirs, and headed back for a last look and picture of our wonderful Hotel de la Monnaie (thanks again to M’s parents!). I highly recommend it if you are looking for a place in New Orleans that is removed from the chaos, but still close to the heart of the French Quarter. Perfectly lovely! 

Back to the vehicle, and away we go! It was close to 1:00 which was, truthfully, earlier than I thought we would leave. But we still had a long day of driving ahead of us, so I was sort of glad to get underway. S took the wheel, and we said goodbye to New Orleans. A lovely ending to a lovely trip! Or so you might think…but the story isn’t over! 

A few hours of uneventful driving – we were noticeably more quiet on this return trip than at the beginning of our weekend. D was in the far back seat, working on a paper she had due. C and I were in the middle, and M was up front with S, helping navigate. We had the GPS on, and that might have been a mistake. Not sure. I just know we ended up on what seemed like a lot of minor roads. There has to be major interstate between New Orleans and Little Rock, but it didn’t seem that we ended up on much of it! I guess that isn’t entirely accurate, we did drive on interstate…I guess. Ha ha! All I know is that when we decided we needed to find somewhere to eat dinner, it seemed we were in the middle of nothing but little towns, with hardly any restaurant options, at least none that kept us close to our chosen route. We were trying to avoid getting too far away from the highway we needed. Finally found a little Mexican restaurant that was actually really good. Reminded me of Las Palmas in North Little Rock, but I digress. Finished eating, and got underway again. I think, at that point, M took over the wheel for a little while. 

We needed to stop for gas in short order, which we did, and everyone took a bathroom break. M wasn’t feeling well, so I took over the wheel at this point. M had been driving a little slowly for our tastes (sorry, M!!) so I sped things up a little. I still didn’t drive as fast I normally would have, but it wasn’t my vehicle, and I wasn’t familiar with the area. Didn’t want to chance a speeding ticket! And, it was starting to get dark, and I wasn’t familiar with the roads. Speaking of which…at one point we ended up on a road that I was sure was leading us to nowhere, and that was going to become a dirt road at any second! Have you seen the movie “Vacancy?” I felt like we were in some dead zone, caught between “Deliverance” and “Vacancy.” Nothing around for what seemed like miles, nothing but our paltry excuse for a road and the night. No way in h*ll I was going to stop that vehicle for anything! It was a little scary. As it turned out, I guess the GPS was taking us on some sort of cut-across to a major interstate, but I didn’t care for it! 

Whew, back on a major thoroughfare, finally! All was fine then, until we got close to our destination. I think I was on autopilot by that time and just took the direction I would normally take to go home…which, of course, wasn’t the way we needed to go! I realized it immediately and got back on going the right way. No problem. Got to the church parking lot around 10:00 that night, I think. But wait, the story doesn’t end there! We all got out and got our luggage into our respective vehicles, and M was off like a shot. Guess she was tired of us! I hung around for a bit to say goodbye, then C and I both got into our vehicles. I was just about to leave when I saw C get back out and say something to S and D. I got out to see what was wrong…her battery was dead! Thank goodness I had jumper cables, because no one else did! S pulled up in front of C’s truck, and we prepared to hook up the cables. S’s battery was weird-looking to me, and we were uncertain where to connect the leads. We were discussing it, when a young man pulled up and got out to help. We could have managed, but I was happy to let him do it! We got everything taken care of, thanked the nice young man, and each headed home. 

I had a great time, as I think did everyone else. Things didn’t go perfectly, but who wants that?? It makes the story much better to tell if there is some excitement along the way! Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

not sure I have the drive

So, for those who don't already know, I used to sing professionally. In my B.C. years, otherwise known as Before Children. Opera. Yep, opera. It was never the most important thing in my life, but it was something I loved and I was pretty good. Very young, so I had room to improve. 

Then, you know, life happened. We didn't plan to have children, but I am so grateful that we did. I started back to singing on the operatic stage when Matthew was about three. Then, found out I was pregnant again...with twins. That put singing right back to the bottom of the list!

Fast forward to now. I have been fortunate to find local outlets for my desire to sing and perform, and even get paid to do it. That said, I live in a small city, where there isn't that much call for opera. So, I don't really get to "do that thing I do" very often. However, in the last year I have really decided to focus on doing it again, and I have been working on getting back into 'classical' vocal shape. Hard work, but mostly satisfying. My plan is to make an audition CD, send around to symphonies and such and see about getting concert work. Opera requires too much travel, and my boys are still young, and still need me at home. And, frankly, I need to be at home with them.

But there are days when I really wonder if it is that important to me. Do I have the drive that I will need to do this? Have I gotten too complacent and accustomed to not doing it? I did a performance recently in PA that I really loved doing, but now that is over, I am not pining for another performance. 

And then there is the flip side to that. I do really love singing, and getting to do something that is so special. And when it is good, it can be amazing! And glorious, and uplifting, and invigorating, and energizing, and an incredible way to connect with others. 

But do I want it badly enough? I think, for me, that is the question. And maybe the answer. Yes, I could have the drive, and I have the gift - sorry, don't mean that to sound snooty, but it is true. I have been given a gift and I do want to use it, but not sure how. I have been told that, with a voice like mine, I have a responsibility to sing. But I can do that on the street corner, or in a church, or the local dinner theater, or community theater, for that matter. But to do what I have been trained to do means singing somewhere else, or coming into a lot of money so I can rent a hall and hold concerts! 

Where, oh, where is my Magic 8 Ball when I need it??! Or maybe a crystal ball would be better...should have stopped by that fortune teller's booth in New Orleans, after all.

Ah well, just needed to vent a bit. Thanks for tagging along.

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez! Day 3

November 15
Everyone got up, ate breakfast and was dressed and ready to go pretty early. After some discussion of what to do for the day, we decided to drive ourselves to the garden district and do a tour of the beautiful homes that line the streets. C wanted to see the home of author Anne Rice, so we made that a priority. We found it pretty easily. Anne Rice no longer lives in New Orleans, so the house is up for sale. Still, C was excited to see the house, and we got some pictures. There were lots of other great houses to see, and we got out a few times to read placards and look at things. The tree roots that line the sidewalks are enormous, and I was very intrigued by them.

While driving, we came upon one of the many cemeteries in New Orleans, and decided to get out and walk through it. I love looking at old headstones, reading the dates and trying to figure out the connections between people. The cemeteries in New Orleans are different from most I have seen, in that people are mostly buried in above-ground tombs. I vaguely knew the reason, but I did a little research to be sure. This practice is the remnant of a necessary solution to the problem of burying wooden caskets, filled with air, in an area where water could be found less than two feet below the surface. In the early days of New Orleans, it was often necessary to bore holes in the caskets, and load them with rocks and sand bags so they would stay put. Even so, a good New Orleans rain would cause some of them to pop right out of the ground. So, the practice of above-ground tombs was put into use, following the Spanish custom of using vaults, and stacking coffins one on top of the other. New Orleans burial plots quickly became known as "Cities of the Dead." But how can you bury more than one family member in each vault? How can a tomb hold all of those coffins? According to a local ordinance, as long as the previously deceased family member has been dead for at least two years, the remains of that person is moved to a specially made burial bag and put to the side or back of the vault. That coffin is then destroyed and the vault is now ready for the newly deceased family member. What happens if a family member dies within that two year time restriction? Generally, local cemeteries are equipped with temporary holding vaults and the newly deceased family member is moved into their final resting place when the time restriction is met. Pretty interesting! We saw inscriptions of dates that spanned over 100 years sometimes. Some were easy to decipher, obviously the burial place for a husband, wife, their children and their spouses, and in some cases, grandchildren. One crypt was for an orphaned boys’ home. It was sobering and sad to see so many graves of children. I said quiet thanks that I have three healthy, robust children.

After the cemetery, we drove around some more, deciding what to do. D and M wanted to drive to the outlet mall, about an hour or so away, and get a start on Christmas shopping. S, C and I weren’t really interested in shopping, so they dropped us off back at the French Quarter, and headed off to Outlet Mall Mecca. Ha ha! S, C, and I had already talked about where to eat lunch, so we headed off to find Antoine’s. According to the web site, Antoine’s was founded in 1840, is the oldest restaurant in New Orleans, and holds the distinction of also being the oldest restaurant under single-family ownership in America. An institution! The menu seemed a little pricey, but since it was lunch, we hoped it wouldn’t be too expensive.

We found Antoine’s and, though we worried about how we were dressed (very casually!), we went in. They seated us, no problem. There were only a couple of other tables occupied, and we weren’t the only ones in jeans, so we didn’t worry anymore. We decided to do another prix fixe menu, and placed our orders. I noticed that the November special included 25 cent lemondrop martinis. Of course, we had to try those! Oh. My. Heavens. Probably the most wonderful thing I consumed the entire trip!! But I cannot let the yummy drink get me sidetracked! The food was also pretty darn good. I chose a trio of soups that included Alligator soup, a bisque and a gumbo, I think. The bisque was really yummy, and the Alligator soup was very good, too. Very interesting. The alligator was ground, and had a very interesting flavor and texture. Reminded me a little bit of a mild chili. I would definitely eat it again. The gumbo was fine, but no better than gumbo I had eaten at home. Frankly, I am not clear on what else I ate. It was another trio from the prix fixe menu, and I want to say it was a crawfish cake (like a crab cake), a trout dish, and something with shrimp. I do know that it was really good. But the martinis were by far the highlight of the meal (and probably why I cannot remember what I ate)! They were sinfully delicious, and so good that it was my dessert. Or should I say, three desserts! Yes, one is normally my limit, but these were so amazing I had three!

We had read about the snooty service at Antoine’s, and we did see some of that. Our water server was rather snotty, but our regular waiter was nice, if a little slow. He seemed like someone who had probably worked there for the last 40 years, and was probably ready for retirement. He forgot a few things, but he saw to it when we gently reminded him. We did see some drama, though! A woman at the table next to us – a regular, it seemed, as she called our waiter by name – had a little altercation with one of the managers. We didn’t notice anything until a young female manager went over to the table next to us and asked what the problem was. From what we could glean, when our waiter took the lady’s credit card to run, he forgot to bring her the slip to sign. The young manager couldn’t find the slip, so she back into the kitchen and immediately begins berating our sweet little waiter in the open doorway, in front of all the customers. He seemed flustered by the whole thing, and tried to find the slip, but it was not to be found. So manager-girl goes back to the desk/register area, which is in the middle of the restaurant, and proceeds to yell across the restaurant that she needs the last four digits of the lady’s card so she can just reprint the slip. The lady then tells her that she still has her credit card, and manager-girl then argues with her about it, again from across the room. Finally she realizes that she does, indeed, still have the lady’s card, so she walks over, tosses it on to the table in from of the lady, and walks away. Not very quietly, the lady sarcastically says, “You’re welcome.” Manager-girl then says to the older manager beside her that she doesn’t know what the problem is or why the lady said that - which, of course, we all heard, including the lady at the next table. She them explains to manager-girl that it was because she was so rude in throwing her credit card on the table. Manager-girl then gets all upset and leaves the room, going in the back and complaining so loudly that we can all hear her in the front. The older manager takes a book of Antoine’s to the lady and tries to smooth things over, apologizing for the young girl. Not sure if it worked, but he at least tried to make things better. Manager-girl has a lot to learn about running a restaurant, and customer service!

We were still drinking our scrumptious martinis so, of course, we were there for the whole thing. After the lady left, manager-girl came out with a simpered smile and apologized to us along the way. She should have apologized to the lady who already left, but whatever.

We finished up our drinks and left, determined to walk off some of the food and martinis. It was quite a bit cooler on this day than previous days, and I was glad to have my leather jacket! We did some window shopping, and went into a couple of shops to make some small purchases. I bought a couple of souvenirs – chickory coffee for my husband, and an ornament for me. Whenever I travel, I try to buy an ornament for the Christmas tree as a souvenir. S bought an ornament, too, I think. There were a number of funny, off-color - waaaaaaaay off-color items that made me laugh, but nothing was appropriate for having around three boys who want to know what EVERYTHING means! So, coffee and an ornament. Good, solid, unquestionable souvenirs.

Just like Bourbon Street is a must on a trip to New Orleans, Pat O’Brien’s and a hurricane is something that must be done! We couldn’t find it at first, having gotten turned around while wandering around the streets. Finally S noticed a woman in a bright green blazer, and asked her where it was. Lo and behold, we were just a couple of doors away from it so, in we went! We entered through a carriageway with crossed muskets overhead. Not sure what they represent, but they looked cool! I meant to point them out to S and C, but I don’t think I did. It was rather cool and windy, but we sat on the patio and had our hurricanes. Just had to do it! We enjoyed our drinks and the atmosphere – lots of noisy people having a good time. In the middle of the patio is something you don’t see very often, a large water fountain with fire emerging from the top! We didn’t really notice it until we went inside and upstairs to the ladies’ room. From a window that overlooks the patio, the Flaming Fountain is hard to miss!

More walking around – all of us wearing more sensible shoes this time, of course! At some point we passed a restaurant with the most incredible aroma wafting out of it! We immediately stopped, checked out the menu and the name of the place – which I now cannot remember – and made mental note to try there for dinner. More window-shopping, people-watching, and cold. So, what else to do but find Jean LaFitte’s Blacksmith Shop?? We first heard of LaFitte’s from our carriage tour guide, and it sounded interesting. Perfect for a cold day, so off we went in search of one of the all-time favorite tourist attractions of the New Orleans French Quarter, located on the corner of Bourbon Street and St. Phillip Street. It was built sometime before 1772, and is one of the few remaining original "French architecture" structures in the French Quarter. According to tradition, the Lafitte brothers operated this blacksmith shop as a legitimate appearing business, serving as a front for their privateer enterprises. One of the brothers was the infamous Jean Lafitte, Privateer, and co-hero of the Battle of New Orleans. Apparently, he came to the aid of one “Angie” Jackson, received a presidential pardon of his privateering, and disappeared into the mist forever. Today, LaFitte’s Blacksmith Shop is a bar and grill that retains all of its Old World charm and character. Inside is dark and small, with a massive stone fireplace taking up much of the front floor. Perfect place to have an Irish coffee! Nice, and warm, just what the doctor ordered. (Oh, and just to be clear, LaFitte’s Blacksmith Shop is not to be confused with Café LaFitte in Exile, voted best gay bar by Zagat. A fine establishment, I am sure, but not the one we visited!)

Back to the streets for more walking, heading back in the direction of the condo. The afternoon was wearing away and we needed to slowly make our way back and get in touch with D and M. We had to figure out the plan for dinner which was, after all, the next important event of our day! We ended up walking back up toward Jackson Square, where there were quite a few more artists, fortuneteller and vendors out than the day before. Up to the street where the carriages wait, and looked at more of the artwork lining the sidewalk. I thought about purchasing a piece or two, but restrained myself. We noticed a large group of people gathered across the road, at a sort of pseudo-ampitheater just below what is called the Moonwalk. There were four or five men, doing some street dancing and joking with the audience. We sat down to watch and laugh at their jokes. I have to say, they were probably laughing at all of us too. We were a crowd of mostly white people, laughing at their jokes on how our contributions were going to keep them out of two places: “the poor house, and your house!” Also, the jokes about one of them not being gay – “not today!” You get the idea. But they were funny, and very talented! All kinds of hip-hop dance going on, head-spinning, jumping, etc. Toward the end, they were looking for volunteers to come down and join them. C was pointing at S, but they came and got C instead! They lined up all these people, and then went around in a dance line, and then made them get down on all fours – you can imagine the jokes then! After a couple of false starts, one of the performers took a running leap over their backs! A good finish to a fun show, and off to the condo! On the way back, we went by a restaurant called Montrel’s that had some good-looking items outside on a table. Filed it away for a potential dinner spot.

It was good to get back to the room, take off our shoes, and rest a bit. Made contact with the mall shoppers, who weren’t far away. So we settled in to wait for them, and discussed our dinner options. We got online to look up the first place, still cannot remember the name, and right on their website it said, “the tantalizing smell of the fresh garlic bread will draw you in,” or something to that effect. Had to laugh, because that is exactly what happened with us! Remember, though, it was Saturday night, and getting later. Probably hard to get in. We called anyway, to find that they only took reservations for 20% of the restaurant, and those were taken for the night. The walk-in tables were all taken, and the lady on the phone said probably a two-hour wait. Ummm, no thanks. The aroma was good, but not that good! We were getting to be some hungry women! We also looked online at Montrel’s, which got high marks for food, but not so high marks for service. We decided to chance it. D and M arrive, everyone gets dressed for dinner, and we head out the door to the streetcar. It was so convenient having it stop almost right outside the condo! Also convenient, Montrel’s was located near Jax Brewery, just outside another streetcar stop, so not a lot of walking involved to get to dinner. That was a good thing! It was cold, and we were hungry. Did I mention we were hungry? Oh, and that it was cold? Just checking.

Get to Montrel’s, the patio is empty, of course. Go through the door, the restaurant is empty, too! Looks like they are closing up shop. We went back and forth on what to do, which gave the hostess time to come over and say they would love to serve us, and please sit anywhere. D was especially reluctant, given the fact that it seemed as if all the staff had gone home and there was probably no food left, but the hostess assured us the chefs were still there and would love to serve us. So, we stayed, against D’s better judgment. Our poor waitress, it seems, had been hiding in the back, and came out to greet us with her coat on! Maybe she had already left, I don’t know. Poor thing. But we were nice to her. And the dinner turned out to be fabulous, with great service! I don’t know how much it had to do with us being the only customers there, but I had no complaints about anything. The food was great, the staff was nice and friendly, high marks from me all around. I think even D was pleasantly surprised!

Our last streetcar ride, back to the condo. We sat around chatting for a while, and again, I have to admit to dozing off. Sorry, ladies. Eleven years of sleep deprivation. What can I say? Nothing but, off to bed!