Monday, October 8, 2012

New Orleans Day 1

The first morning we were there was a late morning.  I think I got in the shower around 10-11am.  But that's kinda how Heather and I roll.  If I remember correctly we ended up watching Alvin and the Chipmunks... and it was pretty funny, lol.   
Having been obsessed with 1000 Things to See Before You Die I begged Heather to go eat at Galatoires.  It ended up just being 100 feet from the hotel on Bourbon St.  Supposedly Fridays lunch crowd is super fun.  I wasn't sure if that would be the case on the Friday after Thanksgiving but it was pretty happening.  I only wish I hadn't worn jeans.  Lol everyone else was dressed in sports coat or for ladies, dress, heals, etc.
The inside was very cute.  It was pretty small but had a fun, lively environment...
I went with the recommendations from 100 Things and went with the Shrimp Remoulade and the Crabmeat Maison.  It was absolutely delicious!
And, they had a Brandy Alexander on the menu so I couldn't pass one up. :)
After Galatoire's we just kind of wandered around... I had never seen the court buildings.  I loved the statue in front of it.  Justice is served here, people! Lol
The street performers were very authentic New Orleans.  Yes, that man will fit through a TENNIS RACKET...
That right there earned him my money.  If my hips could fit through a tennis racket I'm pretty sure I'd cry of pure joy!
Then we strolled along the mighty Mississippi River... Never gets old... Never.
Then it was time for one of my most favorite New Orleans traditions...BEIGNETS from Cafe Du Monde!!!!
The line was REALLY, REALLY annoying.  People were totally being disrespectful and just stealing a seat.  No one at Cafe du Monde seemed to care for a second because they were too busy delivering the tasty pieces of sugared heaven.  But Heather and I minded all social norms and politeness and WAITED in the line for our table. 
And right before my drool was going to creep out my mouth they brought me my iced cafe au lait and beignets and all was right in the world.  All the noise and the huff and puff of watching people steal seats melted away.  Sure my pants got dirty from the shower of powdered sugar...who cares.  It's like wearing a New Orleans Louis Vouitton around...a symbol saying, "Yes, I ate beignets today, I rock, be jealous!"
Beside Cafe du Monde was a very busy crowd watching the performer in the far bottom/right hand corner of the picture.  I just wanted a good picture of the Christmas tree with the fleur de lis on top.  I wish it was just a shade darker so you could see the lights better!
I took, of course, 400 pictures of Jackson Square but none really came out.  You can see the blurriness at the bottom of the page.  But pictures don't describe the reality of being there to me...I love Jackson Square.
Then we passed the National Parks Jean Lafittee location so I begged Heather to stop and see what it was all about.  Basically it was this...
with the outside looking like this... Yea, not impressed.  The park rangers were more excited by the middle-aged woman that was giving them attention.  There wasn't a lot of exhibits there... Just some property that the NPS had acquired of the French Quarter, really.  I was really disappointed.  Maybe because it was 15 minutes before closing?  I dunno, just kinda confused because I go to NPS locations when I travel always.
So Plan A) Go back to the hotel room and watch tv for a little bit til Rock N Bowl got started around 9.

Heather: "Well, we can go back to the hotel room, or we can have a drink, your pick."
Brandy: "Ummm, I guess we can have drink. Pat O'Briens looks quiet and we can have the signature hurricane-since last night we had the signature grenade."

4 Hurricanes Later...

Plan B) Stumble to hotel. boots and all.  Get sick in the bathroom. off.  Get sick in the bathroom.  Feel sick the next day til about 7pm.

Sure......let's go with Plan B!
The last picture of the night...... My arch nemesis.  The HURRICANE.  Heather and I can't really repeat (online) the extent of our 2.5 hour stop at Pat O'Briens.  Believe me, we still laugh about it...regularly.  But let's just say the Bartenders made our night.  We learned a LOT from and about the locals.  I felt like Norm on my bar stool of 10 years.  And those hurricanes snuck up on me.  I don't remember feeling any sort of incapacitated until it was time to go rock and bowl.  I remember thinking the bed was so comfy at the hotel...and I'm sad to say, Heather spent the rest of the night alone wandering Boubon Street...while I...shameful as can be...slept off my hurricanes.

I publically apologize to you, Heather!!!!!!! :)  You're the best travel partner E.V.E.R. if you still go places with me after all of my "oops" travel moments.  Lol 

Let's just say there won't be TOO much to show you on Day 2.  L.O.L.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving and New Orleans!

Oh, my!  I'm approaching the realization that I am almost TEN MONTHS behind in my blog!  But I have to admit I've started a few other blogs (my 1001 movies, my classroom blog and my teachers blog).  But, trust me, travel is still my #1.  I just have sooooo many other things going on including: school, getting into UT, and an extra job.  But, let me share my travels with you!

Thanksgiving 2011 started at the scrapbook retreat house with my friend Kristi but then I came back into Houston to eat the traditional meal with my family (dad, mom, aunt and Heather).

The last few years my family has eaten Thanksgiving dinner at Landry's Seafood in the Woodlands.  It's got a good buffet of seafood and traditional Thanksgiving food.  Last year, though, we had to have a table of 5 and waited for almost 2 hours.  And that's with being a "select member".  Might not go back this year if we have enough time to research a better place.
After dinner Heather and I headed out to NEW ORLEANS!!!!  The Texas/Texas A&M game was on and was really tight.  So about 30-45 minutes outside of New Orleans we went ahead and pulled over so I could watch the 4th quarter.  It was a shadddddddddddddy sports bar with crappy tvs and shadddddddddy people hitting on us but it was an AWESOME, HISTORICAL victory over A&M that they won't get to play for again.  A&M leaving for the SEC was their choice.  Good luck to them (not really).  It was an awesome win!  Just wish I had been in Texas to watch it, because the skanky LA friends were more worried about finding their ride home.
The shady sports bar...but hey, ladies drank free :)  Can't beat that...
Then Heather and I headed into New Orleans, in the French Quarter and got to our room at the Crowne Plaza around 10pm.  It was a nice room and I'm pretty sure I slept on the other bed to the left.  This appears to be the only picture I took-probably more for Trip Advisor purposes.  The bed was super comfy!!
Once we put our luggage and car up we walked up and down Bourbon street.  It was a pretty mild crowd but oh, Bourbon Street, how I had missed you! Lol, it was still the same as it always had been...years later.  I think we had a grenade to welcome ourselves back to the NOLA.  But it was a mild night with not much going on so we went ahead and headed back after walking up and down.  Tomorrow the real exploring began.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Scrapbook Retreat-Thanksgiving 2011

So, last year I got the WHOLE WEEK of Thanksgiving off and decided to go on two little trips.  This would be trip 1:
I went to the Scrapbook Retreat House in Rockport, Texas which is pretty close to Corpus Christi.  It's got a very beachy, small-town vibe.  The house is about 5 minutes from the actual city.
We mostly stay at the house and scrapbook (and ok, surf the internet) when we're there.  But my friend Kristi and I LOVE books so we checked out the local book store.  Love the name-Lori's Book Nook.  I love supporting local bookstores so I think I found a book or two.
The reason we went into town was to visit Enchantments, a scrapbook store.  They offered a coupon on Groupon and I wanted to get my money's worth.  The coupon had actually expired but they gave me the credit for it.  Loved it!  A bit pricey, and not a huge selection but still a nice scrapbook store for such a small town.
Rockport's little "downtown" area... I wanted to look more around but it didn't seem to be on the agenda.
Then we headed to Panjo's.  Kristi and her mom love their pizza.
Doesn't it just look delicious??  And it was!!!!  It was so good, I ate that pizza for the next 2-3 meals. :)

These were some of the scrapbooking pages I made while I was at the retreat house from my England trip.
Kristi and I found these while we were at the Walmart getting some groceries.  They're $2 and sooooo worth it!  So good!  At the scrapbook house we stay up til the wee hours of the morning scrappin, laughin, drinkin, etc.  It's such a cool getaway!
And another page...
Not bad, huh?  Thought of that one on my I do most of these.  This was a seafood restaurant Kristi and I ate at in Boston from 1000 Places to See Before You Die (the name of my scrapbook, too).
I really got a lot of pages done...geez!
And this is the backyard of the Retreat House.  It's huge!
And the view of the little lake from our scrapbook room.  I went back in March and I think I took some extra pictures that I'll have to post.  This scrapbook stay was such a nice getaway for the busy holiday season came!  I went home for Thanksgiving dinner with my family and friend after this... Then Heather and I took off for NEW ORLEANS!!  And that's what you'll see next time....... :)  Safe travels!!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

October 15, 2011 Texas Book Festival!!!

One of my favorite weekends of the year is the annual Texas Book Festival!!  They bring in SUCH AMAZING authors!  Now, I'm a huge fan of children's literature.  One day I'll write a book or two but for now, it's just on the Bucket List.  However, I love children's books, always have.  Every October they bring in about 20-30 huge authors in the field in Austin, on the capital grounds.  It's a FREE event!  Only they ask you to buy books from their Barnes and Noble tents, as a fundraiser.  Now, I have to be honest with you, I bring probably 40-50 of my own personal books.  But I am beyond author-stalking here.  I mean I love, LOVE a few of the authors you're going to see I hope they know it's not about stiffing them on the money it's about getting my beloved copies signed.  I always make sure to spend plenty at the tents but I also get plenty copies for free. :)  Last year (2010) I went with my friend Deborah, but this year (2011) I had about 40 books in a backpack and about 15 others in a book bag and lugged myself all over the children's area going from line to line getting my signatures. 
The first author I had the COMPLETE pleasure to meet with Louis Sachar.  I got in line pretty early on so I only had to wait about 3-4 people.  As soon as he showed up I was literally shaking, kind of like some people would be for Brad Pitt or President Obama.  But you have to understand I've read his books for 20 years!  I love every single one of them.  I read them in my classroom constantly!  I see my 8 year old boys hate reading when they walk in to my room and walk out of my class with a book in their face, bumping into the wall with his books.  He wasn't very talkative but I got my OWN copy of Wayside School signed so I was flying high with adrenaline and excitement!
As I was waiting for the next signing I saw Phil Bildner hanging out.  He came to my school two years ago to talk to the kids.  He writes a lot of stories that my third grade boys loved!  A lot about sports and historical fiction.  I wanted to go introduce myself but so many other women were and I didn't want to lose my place in line, lol.  For the record, though, he is a great presenter and wonderful for author visits!
I didn't have time to go listen to him speak but was excited to see Kadir Nelson and get his autograph on a few of my classroom books.  Henry's Freedom Box is one of my favorite historical fiction books for kids.  His illustrations are AMAZING.  If you click on the link you will not be disappointed!  Although not very friendly, he just kind of held his hands out for my was great to get his autographs on all the copies of his books that I had in my classroom.  Next time I hit Half Priced Books I need to look for more of his books.  I hope he returns because I have more books I'd like to get signed. :)
As I was walking away from Kadir Nelson's table I saw Louis Sachar again signing books.  I was so pumped!!!
Then I saw Bob Shea signing copies of his new book.  He writes for younger children but I found a copy of Big Plans that he illustrated with Lane Smith, the first author/illustrator I ever met.  This book is really inspirational to me and my students and talks about all the big plans we make in life and never to let anyone tell you they are too big.  Can I just say he was a SUPER nice guy, so humble to know my kids love his book.  I really enjoyed talking to him.
One of the other authors I most enjoyed meeting was Barney Saltzberg.  I purchased Crazy Hair Day at the Barnes and Noble tent beside the tables.  He was such a blast to meet.  We talked about teaching young kids and ended up giving me around 100 bookmarks to take back to my classroom.  I absolutely love the book and have a fun time with crazy hair days in the classroom. :)  Loved him and hope to see him again to get some other books signed.
Then I got to meet Marla Frazee who is both an author and illustrator.  I brought my copy of Clementine that I got signed the year before by Sara Pennypacker.  Ms. Frazee illustrated it so I got her to sign my book as well.  She has written a few books but I didn't have them with me.  Since they're all $15 to purchase I had to go a bit easy and didn't purchase any of her picture books.  But she was still very nice and willing to sign my book.
Then I looked at my schedule to see who was signing before my most anticipated signing in the afternoon.  I saw that Nancy Tillman was signing.  She writes picture books that are great for reading to children before bed.  I went to the Barnes and Noble side of the tent and found The Crown on Your Head.  It was so touching I had to get a copy.  She was really sweet and left handed!! :)
I was trying to listen to the volunteers and organizers make the line for Doreen Cronin and made sure to get in the front of the line.  I was probably about the 7th-8th person in line (in the worst company ever, people surrounding me were idiots).  I brought EVERY Doreen Cronin book I owned (either 7 or 9, I can't be sure).  Now, you have to understand, the authors are signing "TO MISS ALEXANDER"S CLASS" so it takes a lot of writing.  She signed ALL of them!!!!  We talked about her daughter who was in 2nd grade and I told her how much we enjoy her books.  She was SO nice and it was probably the highlight of the entire weekend!!!
After Doreen Cronin I got to meet the esteemed Rosemary Wells.  I know her best for her Mrs. Bindergarten's Kindergarten books...and from watching Max and Ruby with my nephews.  She was nice...not very engaging or talkative.
She really writes for all ages.  I also had her sign a copy of one of the books in my classroom.
Then I went to get a classroom book signed by Michelle Knudsen.  She writes a variety of books for young children and teens.  I love The Library Lion and had just got it (for Free) from Scholastic Book Clubs and she was nice enough to sign it even though it wasn't purchased from the tent.
As I was leaving the Capitol grounds I saw this protest yelling and hollering to stop executions.  Lol, sorry but in Texas?  They got their work cut out for them!! However, as someone who wants to revolutionize the way of politics in this country I was proud to see people using their First Amendment rights to voice their opinions.
The view of the Texas State Capitol never gets old...
Love it peaking over the tall trees when you walk up to it from the Capitol parking garage.
Zoomed a bit more...

After I took some more pictures I left.  And, in true Brandy fashion, I hit up Half Priced Books to get some more books for Sunday's line up.  I spent way too much money but I was in book heaven all day, so I was pumped.  I had booked a room at the Hampton Inn outside of Austin and just read books and blogged all night (it was fabulous).  The next day I had more authors to stalk!
I tried to take this picture as my "title picture" for my other blog.  It showcases the book festival tents in front of the Capitol Building.
I hung around for Sunday because of this wonderful woman, Kate DiCamillo!!  I had got some of her books the night before at Half Priced Books to save some money, lol.  She was very nice and I loved getting some of her books signed!  I read Because of Winn Dixie when I was a kid so it was great to get it signed, along with The Tale of Despereaux which I just love.  She creates such great characters!
It was fun to meet David Davis.  He's a "hoot" as some say.  His books are really funny and my kids love them, especially Zeke and the Longhorn which is great to teach Texas' symbols.  I've seen him at a lot of author therefore have many of his books signed. :)  That never gets old!
After I was finished with David Davis I snapped this shot of the long line for Kate DiCamillo.  I was probably the 5th person in line. :)  Lol, after that I snapped a few shots, went around to the booths one more time and hit the room back to Houston!
One more of my favorite shots of the capitol......I just does NOT get old to me!  (And hopefully my future employer!)
Seeing as I'm moving to Austin next year I'm hoping to volunteer with the Texas Book Festival, as long as none of my authors are there...because then I will be in line getting signatures. :)

I can't wait for another 2 months when I'll be back the last weekend of October!