January 23, 2012

New Orleans is a town that offers great restaurants, hotels, and music. Sometimes you can find free music, like the incredible talents of Tanya & Dorise on Royal Street, but you will likely pay for music if you listen in at restaurants, bars and hotels.

But there are a lot of free things you can do in this wonderful tourist town too. Here is my list of my top ten favorite free things to do. Remember to be careful in where you go, when you go and what you do in the city.
  1. The French Quarter. The French Quarter alone can take up ten or more free things to do and could take up your whole three day weekend doing it. Take in the sights and sounds of Jackson Square. Watch the street performers, look at the artists' works (like super talented Ricco Rideaux, a Jackson Square artist), admire the Pontalba buildings or enjoy the French Quarter Festival in April. Watch beignets being made at Cafe du Monde. Browse the shops through the French Market. Take a tour of St. Louis Cathedral. Take the free National Park Service walking tour. People watch on Bourbon Street.
  2. The Arts District. Gallery hop on the first Saturday night of each month along Julia Street. 
  3. Carnival and Mardi Gras. Enjoy the free show along the parade routes during Carnival Season.
  4. The Mississippi River. Watch the ships pass along the river from Woldenburg Riverfront Park or the Riverwalk.
  5. National WWII Museum. Swing dance every Sunday during the summer.
  6. Lafayette Square. Take in free summer concerts every Wednesday.
  7. The Cities of the Dead. Tour one of the numerous above ground cemeteries in the city. Be careful that you are safe so pick a time when there are a lot of people about.
  8. The Garden District. Plan a self-guided tour from a book on this wonderful old residential neighborhood.  Notice all the beads in the trees throughout the District and bask in the loveliness of the historical homes.
  9. Audubon Park and City Park. Marvel at the 100 year old oak trees throughout these two urban gems. Enjoy the lovely WPA built monuments and facilities in City Park.
  10. Jean Lafitte National Historical Park Preserve's Barataria Unit. Walk the nature trail.
Of course, if you take any of these suggestions you'll also find lots of opportunities to spend money if you wish:)

January 20, 2012

New Orleans French Quarter - Notable Buildings

The New Orleans' famed French Quarter is, in my opinion, an American gem - a unique jewel among our country's many different and diverse neighborhoods. There is nothing else like it. What you may not know is that the French Quarter still exists much like it was 100 years ago because of city's previous economic stagnation. There was just never enough money to tear most of it down.

In the early 20th century, there was a large desire to tear the French Quarter down. It had become the equivalent of a New York City tenement neighborhood. It was largely poor and working class at best and often close to being a slum. Just as some of the city leaders were prepared to make the French Quarter a giant urban renewal project, the Great Depression put a screeching halt on those ideas.

Meanwhile, the preservationist movement and tourism was starting to take hold in the city, so by the end of WWII, the French Quarter was largely safe except for the failed attempt to run an expressway along the river side. The preservationists and new tourism entrepreneurs were able to stop those plans.
So, now, fortunately for the city and America, the French Quarter remains an American masterpiece.  Here are a few beautiful buildings to check out:

Madame John's Legacy, 628-32 Dumaine Street, 1788. One of the oldest buildings in the French Quarter, the building is reminiscent of a French Colonial Plantation home. There are no buildings left from the French Colonial period in the city, but this house is about as close as one can get.

The Bosque House, 617-19 Chartres St., 1795. This house typifies the Spanish Colonial Period. The Spanish brought the courtyard to New Orleans, and those courtyards are reached through a covered carriageway. Situated at the rear of courtyards are usually the service rooms and kitchens. Sometimes these are attached as an ell to the house and sometimes not, among homes of that era.

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, 941 Bourbon St., about 1781. This shop was responsible for quite a few homes built in the Quarter from the late 18th century through much of the 19th century. These homes were commonly four rooms with fireplaces in each and steep roof. Dormers have been added to the Lafitte's house. The type is often called a Creole Cottage and sometimes have smaller cabinets at the rear.

1122 Burgundy Street, 1826. This too is a cottage but the narrower type to fit a smaller lot. This is a three bay house with a steep roof and dormer. Some are two bay homes and some have an open side gallery, not an uncommon feature among New Orleans homes of various types.

1012 Dauphine Street, 1826. Another variation on the cottage theme but a wider cottage with five bays including a center door.

817-19 St. Ann Street, 1811. Again, another variation on the cottage theme but a taller version. Some are a full two stories tall and some are one and three/quarters stories tall with the roof sloping steeply so that some space under the lowest part of the roof is usable only for storage.

838-42 Royal Street, 1805. The townhouse was a larger home in the French Quarter. These are two and three story homes with the well-known covered balcony on the second and third floors. There were often shops on the first floor with residential rooms on the second and third floors. There is usually a courtyard as private space in the rear of the home with typical urban service buildings at the back.

Pedesclaux-Le Monnier House, 636-40 Royal Street, 1794-1811. This tall and unusual Creole Townhouse tested the builder's confidence in soil conditions. This was a major concern at the time and often limited buildings to fewer floors. This is a four story building with each floor projecting vertically more than might be expected.

Napoleon House, 500-06 Chartres St., 1798-1814. This building houses one of the more popular and famous barrooms in the city. It is another fine example of a Creole Townhouse. The building got its name for the rumor that Napoleon Bonaparte was to be spirited away to New Orleans from English capture to live in this building. It is a remarkable building and a must-see for any visitor to the city.

817 Burgundy St., 1840. This is one of many examples of the American Townhouse in the French Quarter.  They fit so well into the Vieux Carré that you have to believe they are French even if the Quarter itself is largely Spanish. There are many fine examples of this type in the area. They are generally three bays wide, two or three stories tall with outbuildings often attached. One bay is the door entrance to a side hall.

This small sample does not do justice to the variety and number of beautiful, remarkable buildings in the French Quarter. When visiting the city, especially if you are interested in American vernacular architecture, make sure to spend the time seeing as many blocks as possible, and as always be careful in a city with a deserved urban reputation.

January 18, 2012

Shoe Addiction: Sole Society

I have quite the shoe obsession.  It seems the brighter, the weirder, the more patterned...the higher the heel --- I can't help it, I want them!  My latest purchase is a pair of heels from Sole Society.

They're called "The Victoria".  They're a satin, round toed pump with a black lace overlay.  They've got a 4 1/2" heel with a 3/4" platform!  I really like the look of the heels as they'd work well with jeans, color blocked with solid or patterned rights or with a dress and cardigan.

January 17, 2012


Long time, no post.  Life has been busy, hectic... something I'm sure most of you out there can relate to.  I've been honestly thinking about resolutions and how I can change myself for the better.  I realized that I have let myself develop traits and characteristics that I am not pleased with nor proud of.  I'm going to be *gulp* thirty this year and I feel like it is time to take charge of what I can and who I want to be as a person.

I know, I know...you don't have to tell me that most (all?) people crap out on resolutions so I can call it something else if you like but basically, these things are going to happen.  I'm not giving up and I'm not blowing them off.  They're stuck with me, baby!

Henceforth....the resolutions...
I know that most people don't keep resolutions, but I'm determined.  I feel like {now} is the time.  So...here we go.  Bare bones - honest & truthful.

1.  Thirty Before Thirty.  I will lose 30 pounds before my 30th birthday, which is roughly 3 months away.  A small, yet difficult, goal to be healthier, thinner, and more active.

2.  Be A Nicer, Better Version Of Me.  I get frustrated with people easily, am guilty of talking about people, and if I'm in a bad mood, sometimes am mean or rude to others.  I single myself out here, even though I know that many others are guilty of these infractions as well.  I cannot change how others think but I can at least attempt to change myself.  I don't like the snarky, sometimes mean & hateful, thoughts that pop into my head and I do not enjoy hurting people's feelings. 

3. Less Stress.  I worry about everything.  Whether it's making money or spending money, my job, what people think, what other people are doing, how are we going to pay for this or that, things I cannot change...I worry about it all.  It's stressful.  Stress has become such an issue that I require medication to deal with.  I need to learn to calmly and rationally deal with situations rather than freak out, panic or worry. 

4.  Lose 50 by 2013.  I admit it.  I've become a fat ass.  I buy clothes that camouflage my 'problem areas'.  I've become one of those women who wear a shirt over their swimsuit and I hate it.  I've never once worn a bikini without a cover-up on at all times.  The way I see it, it's now or never.  Sure, I'd love to eventually be one of those hot older ladies who can rock a bikini (like Helen Mirren) but right now, while I'm still categorically "young", I want to be able to do it as well.  (As of 1/17, I've lost 15 pounds, so I'm on my way!)

5.  Be A Caring Person.  I feel like being a good person is caring about others before yourself.  Taking the time to help where help is needed.  There are several areas in my community that could use a helping hand.  For example - ◘I could volunteer at the animal shelter or donate food/supplies there.  (It hurts my heart to see all those animals without loving homes.) 
◘I could donate unused items from my home such as clothing, household items, etc. to the local Goodwill.  My house is cramped and we have too much stuff that we keep for no good reason, thinking maybe "one day, we'll use it."
◘I could volunteer at our Art Center.  Be a tour guide or take a class.  It is a non-profit organization meant to bring art awareness to our community with free classes & displays of local artists.
◘I could join the groups who walk around beautifying our town.  Picking up trash, planting trees & flowers, painting old buildings, helping the elderly, etc.

6.  Create.  This one is important to me.  I love all mediums of art.  I have this intense desire to create beautiful things.  I have so much creative energy inside me.  Whether it's painting, landscaping, drawing, scrapbooking, designing, sewing, crafting....I love it.  I don't mean to be boastful here when I say that I feel like I have talent.  I've always been shy about being proud of something, because deep inside me I do feel "less than".  I feel like someone will always do something better than me.  I must learn to throw that notion aside & be happy, be excited, be proud - of what I create.  The lesson that I must learn is "I made this.  I am happy with the way it turned out."  I am so thankful for Pinterest because it inspires me to no end.  I'm in the process of turning our storage room into my art/craft studio.  Maybe I could even sell the things I made?  Hmmmm....

I figure that I will probably add more to this list later, but for now it's all I've got.  I guess an unofficial #7 is to not remove things from the list.