Saturday, June 30, 2007

Them's Gators in That There Water

Yes, we went on the swamp tour. It was a blast! I recommend the Airboat Adventures tour to anyone who visits New Orleans. I have always wanted to do it and just never have. A MUST, I say! Be careful though, there are a lot of "swamp tours" that aren't as good as this one. The guys who run it are so personable and gracious. (They thanked us profoundly for taking the tour. These guys are hurting, I tell you. Our captain lives right on the swamp and knew everything there was to know (at least the questions we asked). It was just us on the boat and he made the tour worth every penny!

Guess what they fed the alligators? Marshmallows! Is that wild or what? As soon as they would throw some in the water, one or two would come up. This one was one of the smaller ones.

The swamps were gorgeous. Just what I imagined. It was just like a painting with the beautiful sky as a backdrop. The cypress and magnolias were just lovely with the Spanish moss draped from their limbs. You know I have a thing for that stuff. It's just so, well, Southern! Did you know that Henry Ford used Spanish Moss to stuff the seats of the first Model Ts? Yep. Learned that on the tour.

The captain showed us several nests. One mother was docile while the next was totally protective of her mounds. She hissed and guarded it like a momma should. The captain let the cuz use the paddle to show how aggressive she was. Amazing. She then crawled up to the nest to make sure we weren't going to bother her eggs. It's amazing how still they can be, even with their mouth wide open ready to strike.

What amazing creatures they are up close in their own environment.

It was very hot in the sun on that water, so the cap took us over to a little shady spot for us to cool off. He then whips out this baby gator for us to see! Said he caught it the day before. This one was less than two years old. The kid and I did not hold it, Raphi and the cuz did, however. Does Raphi look American or what?

It really was a lot of fun. A storm was forming in the distance so we headed for the shore. I would definitely do this again.

Back From Nawlins

As you can see from the pic above, New Orleans is in need of some real visitors. Although the rooms were cheaper than normal and not having the crowds was nice, it still saddened me to see how quiet the town was. (Albeit, we didn't go to the French Quarter at night; so it could still be hopping there as far as I know.)

It took under three hours to get there from Riverside. I think it took more time trying to find the "spa" we were dropping Rootie off at. Lordy, they don't put numbers on buildings here--or at least, not like they should--and we drove round and round back and forth trying to find the place. It took literally an hour to finally find the kennel. Not the way you want to start a trip. I'm used to it though, I'm always lost. We made it through Mississippi and hit Louisiana. You could instantly see the wrath of Katrina. I had never driven into New Orleans by car (only when I was a teenager with my family) and I was amazed at how much water there really is down in those parts. They are still working on getting the roads and the causeways fixed. It really hit home when you get closer to New Orleans and you see the now totally destroyed and abandoned Six Flags amusement park. So very sad. And as you roll into town, to see the Superdome is quite a jolt back to those horrible days and weeks after Katrina hit. It brought tears to my eyes as we passed.

Since I was familiar with the W Hotel, which is where we stayed last time we were there pre-Katrina and it's away from the French Quarter, I chose to stay there with the kids. I absolutely LOVE W Hotels! So much fun, and tres chic as Raphi would say. Here is the entrance--too funny. Yes, this bed is in between the lobby and the entrance. (I had to borrow these pics from their website as I had to delete the "unimportant" photos from my camera as I ran out of room in the swamp!) If you remember my last trip, the hotel also includes a great library you can sit in and relax. Of course, there was no time for that this time with the kids. It was run run run! So much so, I got blisters on my feet--from my Birkies! The ones I wear every day!! Geesh.

As soon as we put our things in the room and got Bella settled, we left for lunch. We were all starving. Oh, to be in NO and hungry. Is there a better place to be? Not many, I tell you! I thought I would introduce the kids to a true NO staple, the muffuletta. We strolled along the Mississippi to the French Market.

Above is the Immigrant Memorial right on the Mississippi River. It was a beautiful day, the clouds were magnificent. And yes, it was hot and humid. Thus the blisters on my feet, I suppose.

We made it over to Central Grocers (circa 1906) is located--the home of the muffuletta. It was well worth the walk. It's literally a small grocery store that also makes muffulettas. You order the sandwich right at the cashier. There are two long narrow booths with stools you can belly up to one you get your sandwich. Like I said, on a pre-Katrina day in NO, there were be lines out the door getting muffulettas and definitely no were to sit. We were able to walk in, order our whole muffuletta (a quarter for each of us--they are that big!), sit down and have a leisurely lunch. The picture above is of a half! Raphi is shown eating a quarter of the mammoth sandwich. Mmmmmm, it was so good. My stomach is growling just thinking about it! Sure wish I had one now! Afterwards, we crossed back over to Cafe du Monde (dating back to 1862), and home of the beignet. Oh yes. How could we not finish our perfect lunch with a perfect sweet? YUM! Teamed up with an iced coffee, I was in heaven. The kids weren't complaining either.

When the bellies were way too full, we mosied on over to the French Quarter and Bourbon Street which Raphi was dying to see. Of course, it was calm in the daytime but the kids still had to shield their eyes from some of the store fronts. (I'm not a prude, but towards Canal on Bourbon is a tad raunchy. I wish they would do away with the stuff and bring Bourbon back to just clubs you can stroll through. Rant off.) The first shop we came to as we turned onto Bourbon was Marie Laveau's Voodoo Shop. Now, take a closer look. Look at the mist!! How strange is that. It's not the camera because the shots before and after are crystal clear. Raphi took one about the same time, perfectly clean. How strange is that??? Mmmmwwwaaaaaahhaaaaaaaa! I didn't go in--Raphi did. (By the way, I had such bad blisters on my feet, we had to cancel the ghost tours--two hours long on foot! Ouch!)

I will post more a little later on the rest of our New Orleans trip. Oh yes, there is more to come.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Riverside's Mascot(s)

Raphael made it in fine on Sunday; and boy have we been busy. Along with Raphi came his extra nice camera. He has been blowing me away with his photographs. Wow! All of these were taken around the house, just to show you all the creatures around us. I've never seen a face of a dragonfly before. Looks like he's saying "HUMAN!" I think Raphi is enjoying all the local flora and fauna. I'm definitely enjoying the up-close and in person photos!

Here's some tree frogs he captured with his fantastic new lens. WOW! The last one is my new screen saver. Lovin' it!

Okay, remind. Saturday night, the kid, the cuz (my niece) and I went to go see Shrek 3. It was cute, but I think I preferred the first and second one. Such is life. Afterwards, we went and had Cici's Pizza--a smorgasborg of pizza, all the way to dessert pizzas. The cuz had never been; and the kid and I always enjoy it--the hub won't go, excuse me Mr. Half Italian man. We made it in before a big ol' bus o' kids arrived. The cuz and I saw the onslaught and ran for the dessert pizza. hehe. We crack each other up. Of course, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and we had to leave about three cinnamon rolls behind. We giggled all the way out the door, past all the (what looked like) high school wrestlers from Mobile.

Since we were so close to the beach (Gulf), we decided to go ghost crab hunting. It was a blast! We found several and chased them around. By about 11 p.m., I was pooped. It was such a fun night. (Borrowed the pic above from the web--of course, I left my camera in the car!)

I've lost track of days, but one night we went to the pier to watch the sunset. Raphi took some great pictures. Some really good one of the kids which I can't wait to get back home to print and FRAME! I mean, they are really good. There were a lot of fishermen catching everything under the sun. A big ol' turtle even swam by and I just missed it before he submerged. Grrrrrrr.

Raphi and the kids have been out fishing most every day, not much luck in pulling in the big ones though. Raphi, however, did catch quite a few sunfish this morning before the rest of us drug our lazy bones out of bed about 8:30. hehe.

Today was the last day of the kids' art classes. It is actually Friday, but tomorrow, guess where we're heading? New Orleans. Nwawlins. Can't wait! Bella is going with us, Roo dog is going to the "spa." We're spending a few days there to show Raphi the town. Probably will hit a ghost tour tomorrow evening. Fun!

Now it's time for dinner. Gotta run. Still have lots to post about. Hope to catch up soon.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Friday, June 22, 2007

Raphi's Coming, Raphi's Coming!

We got news this morning that, indeed, Raphael is coming to visit Riverside. He arrives -- TOMORROW! Eeek. He had some business and wasn't sure he would be able to come as planned, but it all worked out. Therefore, today, I am the Domesticated Goddess. Got the floors vacuumed; uh huh, figured out the central vac. Geesh, you'd think I was born in the boonies. I've never had a central vac before--still not sure I like it. I've been snubbing my nose at it since we first got the house. Even bought a little electric broom to snub my nose even more. But, after being here for a week with the cat and dog, it was time to do some heavy duty vacuuming. I broke down. Used two--yes two--attachments. Whoa. One for the wood floors and one for the carpets in the guest bedrooms. Miso funny. Then I scrubbed the floors, which was truly needed. It looks fine, let me tell you.

We had storms Monday and Tuesday; and the water has been just a tad murky as noted above. We called it the Willie Wonka Milk Chocolate River. It cleared out yesterday so the kids jumped in it this afternoon. They said it was nice and cool. Sigh, sure wanted to jump in after doing the floors. I tell ya.

Baby Bella is doing well. She's a feisty little bugger. She is high strung for a bit then passes out. She loves doing the "crawdad" attacking you. I mean, she attacks and spits (thinks she's hissing). Little brat. Then I grab her, like a momma would, and calm her down. Trying to teach her not to be so aggressive. Gee. She normally calms right down and falls asleep.

This is one of her favorite spots in mom's room. She had the room to herself for a week. We moved her over to the kids' room last night because Raphi will be using mom's. Got it nice and sparkly clean. Yea!

Looks like it's nappy time down south. Even Bella is passed out, you can barely see her asleep on the nightstand. Awwww. Sweet summertime.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A BIG Thank You

Just before leaving Nashville last Friday, I received a package. I packed it up with the rest of my stuff and brought it down to Riverside. I could barely stand waiting to open it since it came from Queen Vallen herself. It sat in the living room chair where I eyed it for two days. I finally couldn't wait any longer and opened it on Sunday.

I bet you could hear me squeal from where you are when I found one of Vallen's lovely tea cozies in the box. Oh! Of course, I was terribly envious when I saw her making them. She felt my "greenness" and took it upon her sweet little self to send me one! I can't wait to get it home and put it up in my kitchen.

Not only did she send the tea cozy, but look at all the beautiful papers she plopped in the box too. All kinds o' sheet music with "Rose" in it and some old library card catalog cards! Do you remember them? I think it's a shame library's don't use them any longer. I honed in on my alphabetizing skills by using them as a child. We all probably did! Yuk, everything all computerized now. There was just something special about flipping through the cards. Of course, I always found an extra book or two just by flipping by a new title. Oh well, no turning back, I suppose. I just think it's a loss. {Rant Off.} I can't wait to get everything back to make something fun out of everything. Val, you're the bestest. Thank you so much.

Today, I was able to get my Thank You Card Swap off. (I used one of my cards above for Val.) I decided to do my first Mo Jackson's swap. I love her "doo's." I first learned about them through dear Mrs. Staggs. I've been hooked ever since but have been totally intimidated to do any swaps there. I finally just bit the bullet and signed up. It was a lot of fun making the cards using all of her doo dads. Oh my. It's always a great feeling to finish a swap and get it off in the mail. I'm beginning to learn my way around town. I found a new way to get to the kids' art class which is a prettier drive. Another Oh My! You drive through "Polo Land." which my brother will die for when he finally comes down to visit. He's an avid polo fan and player; so imagine the amazement to find polo grounds right down the road from us! Gee whiz. Anyway, this scenic route is actually easier and faster to get into town. Lovin' it! Normally it's the ugly routes that are faster, right? I found a new little post office, almost in Point Clear, that is easier to get in and out of than the big Fairhope PO. I was happy to find that! (I was still about ten minutes late in picking the kids up--only one person in front of me; but you know small-town. She had to tell us--the clerk and I--about her little vacation she had just returned from. Gotta love small-town sweetness. I am still learning to slow down. Yes, it's a couple notches slower than Nashville even. Grin. It's wonderful.

Here's the latest of baby Bella. (Let's see if I can figure out the video thing--this pic will hold you over until I get it figured out!) She is just too cute for words. Little bugger just loves my tooth picks! (Hehe, listen to the kids in the background!!!! Hillarious!!!)



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