Saturday, October 12, 2019

Rearranging That To-Do List

It was a beautiful fall day here yesterday, and even though we have no business doing anything but taking care of what feels like a million things that need taking care of, we decided instead to carpe diem. 

Because sometimes you just must.

I find a walk in the woods is the best way to clear my head and should regularly be at the top of my 'to do' list. Pretty sure the world would be a nicer place if we all spent more time in the hushed stillness of God's green earth.

Hubs and I packed a lunch and headed to nearby Whitewater Falls because we haven't seen those up close and in person yet. We only argued a little as to which blue blaze trail marker was the correct blue blaze trail marker, and of course hubs was correct because he's always correct in matters of direction. Why does he even ask me which way I think we should go when he knows I'm always pointing left when we need to go east or up when we need to head south? He likes to talk about where the sun is in the sky and blah blah blah.

Let's just walk, k?

For the record, I don't mind getting a little lost, figuring it out as we go, maybe seeing something unexpected, and just enjoying the sun on my face and the silence of the forest. Hubs however is a man on a mission and we must get to those falls in a timely manner or die trying.

We began the day at the Upper Falls overlook which is a short easy half mile trek (plus 154 steps) to magnificent.

Did I mention we had the pup with us? He only wrecked my zen a little and had an absolute ball. He ran most of the way all day long and could have done another six miles if hubs and I had said let's go.

We did not.

Because the lower falls trail (once you're on the correct path, ahem) is steep and we were tired. I'd visited the website to get some approximate directions prior to leaving home and the lower falls hike was described as roughly two miles in and out. We must have hopped on from a different starting point because our hike was roughly six miles in and out.

We moved the car to catch the lower falls trail which was a mixture of an up and down wooded path, rocky in some spots, a few downed trees to climb over or slip under in others, tree roots to trip you up if you weren't careful, and a brilliant blue sky overhead reminding you no matter what you're walking through beauty is found when you look up.

I thought we'd see more color here but autumn is rolling in to the Upstate ever so slowly this year. It has been hotter than the double hockey sticks and temperatures plus the humidity level have only recently begun to settle down.

One of the prettiest spots on the lower falls trail was right here-

In fact one of us would say it was their favorite part of the day-

He would have been happy to stay right here all day, but we still had a mile and a half-ish to go so we crossed the bridge and carried on.

And as we walked I thought about some stuff. Thinking deep thoughts and hiking go hand in hand which is one reason I enjoy hiking. It's hard to think deep thoughts when you're staring down your to-do list and see a floor that needs vacuuming and clothes that need washing and suitcases that need packing.

Soul searching comes naturally when you're away from it all.

It happens when you're walking along a mostly flat, mostly clear path until suddenly you're not. You encounter rocks and roots that can trip you up and irritate, and the easy pace you were enjoying begins to feel like a slog you need to just get through.

Your destination begins to feel further and further away, but if you put your head down and press on you'll discover those rocks and roots and irritating big and little things you had to get around or over were part of your journey to something beautiful.

Life, y'all.

Then your hubs the planner whips out his little camp stove and makes you a cup of hot apple cider on the spot...

And you're so glad you didn't quit before you got to where you were meant to go.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Big Easy

Way back when, before we knew our baby girl was moving to South Korea, before we knew our baby girl would be having a baby in this calendar year in South Korea, we made plans to spend a long weekend in New Orleans with college friends.

And even though we're trekking across the world later this fall we still spent an extended weekend in New Orleans last week because why not?

Several in our group hit a milestone birthday this year and we wanted to mark the occasion(s) with a fun trip. Some of us (me included) had never been to New Orleans before but we did have one friend with us who had an office in the city so he steered us in the right direction in terms of where to stay, what to eat, and how to enjoy.

First things was hot. We have humidity in the Palmetto State, but yowza this town takes it up a notch. They pretty much take everything up a notch in NOLA including the butter, the cream, the cocktails, and the crazy, but the humidity is for real y'all.

We stayed in the very lovely Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter and it was a great location for accessing all that we wanted to do.

And by 'do' I mean eat. I was looking through my pictures and more than half are snapshots of my plate with some delicious something or other front and center. Case in point-waiting on their BBQ shrimp in the photo above, and my baked apple with a praline oatmeal topping from our breakfast at Brennans below-

A whole wonderfully delicious fish at Emeril's restaurant (NOLA)-

Sampling one of the famous hurricanes from Pat O'Briens-

Too sweet for me (the Pimms at Bar Napoleon is more my cup of tea), but I'm pretty sure the law says you have to taste a hurricane while you're here.

The law also says you can pour the leftovers in a to-go cup and walk around town with it which seems kinda crazy, but hey that's New Orleans. 

Speaking of crazy, let's talk crazy good and pause for a moment to give the beignet it's due. Not sure there's such a thing as a perfect food, but the beignet has got to be awfully close.

The food in this city is fabulous and many well known chefs got their start here. We were a group of ten so booked our dinners in advance and most of the nicer restaurants offered reservations. 

There's always some sort of celebration happening in New Orleans which means the town is hopping and the restaurants are busy. If you go, book ahead for the more well known venues. My favorite was Commander's Palace which is something of an institution here. They still like for men to wear jackets and boy do they know how to celebrate a special occasion.

We had five birthdays in our group and there were balloons on the table and big hats for the honorees. The service is five star and the food wonderful. I ordered their famous bread pudding souffle for dessert and was not disappointed. Hey, how about a picture?

In other foodie news, we all signed up for a cooking demo one morning at the New Orleans School of Cooking, and this I highly recommend. So much fun! Our chef (Harriett) was funny and had a wonderful way of engaging the audience in what she was cooking.

We ate as the morning went along starting with a delicious corn and crab chowder, pralines, a shrimp creole and the grand finale-bananas foster, which came to fame at a New Orleans eatery.

It was okay I guess.

Harriett  managed quite the flame and then sprinkled cinnamon on top which caused it to sparkle. We definitely plan to try this at home, but will likely do ours outside.

Six of our group also spent a day trekking out to Oak Alley Plantation and really enjoyed the visit. It's about an hour outside New Orleans, but our bus driver was really good in sharing information about the city and it's history as well as the surrounding area.

My first time driving over the mighty Mississippi.

We took a guided plantation house tour (after we hydrated because did I mention the heat here???) and they do a good job contrasting the hard life of a slave to that of plantation owner.

The slave quarters are still on site too and you can peek inside several buildings.

We walked the grounds afterward and spent the rest of our visit in awe of the giant oaks. They're beautiful!

Such a fun weekend! Besides all of the above we also managed a short visit to the WW2 Museum (really well done), a walk around the Garden District, a trolley ride, and as always happens when we're together, lots and lots of belly laughs. Cheers to 40 years of friendship!

And here's to 40 more!