photography

san fran…ciscooooo [photo dump days three & four]

Welcome back for days 3 & 4 of Martina’s San Franciscan adventure. I’ve decided to lump Saturday and Sunday together because although we did things, I feel like I didn’t take enough pictures for two separate blog posts.

Anyway…

Saturday was a rough day for me. Being in the cold, wet air the night before and not feeling well to begin with was not ideal. Add on to that having to search for a backpack to replace mine that broke, I was not a happy camper. Our hotel was on the borderline of the Tenderloin neighborhood and Nob Hill. The Tenderloin is known for their homeless population. According to what we heard, it’s gotten better, but still not the nicest of areas. Nob Hill, on the other hand, is home to shopping. High end, luxury, I don’t even think we have one of those stores in New York shopping. We passed Yves Saint Laurent, a Tesla dealership, and Burberry on our way to the first H&M.  They, of course, had no backpacks but told us to try the one in the mall. I wasn’t thrilled to be spending my precious tourist time in a mall, but necessity calls. We walked over to the mall and saw that they also had a Kate Spade, so things were brightening up. We found H&M and walked in, confident that I would find a simple backpack. Wasting no time, I strode up to the salesgirl and asked: “Do you have any backpacks?” To which I was greeted with a blank stare. “Ok, maybe ‘backpack’ is a regional word, like sneakers vs. tennis shoes. Let’s try again.” “you know”, I continued, “a bookbag?” *hand motions of God knows what, putting books in a bag, maybe?* “Oh, no, we don’t. Try the other store across the street.

Defeated, we walked out, trying to plan our next move. Again, I was done and ready for a nap. I cope well in all situations, obvs. Totes grounded and not at all dramatic. We walked around the mall for a bit and found a Kate Spade store. She had tons of cute things but nothing that I wanted needed to bring home. Finally, we ended up in Nordstrom Rack, where thankfully, I found something that would work and my mood brightened a bit.

Our plan for the day was taking a tour in an authentic VW bus. I was stoked (oh, look at me using the California lingo!). I felt very much like a hippie in my gauzy shirt with the little tassels on the sleeves. I bought a flower crown at Claire’s, I was ready to go. Except that a gauzy shirt paired with denim shorts is not the outfit you wear in 59 degree weather. So, again, I’m underdressed. And before anyone wonders why I didn’t just shut up and buy a sweatshirt – I totally misjudged on shopping. There were places I thought I would have time to get back to, even if I went by myself, but I didn’t. Bitching and moaning got me through, always does.

Back to the tour

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looks like a hot summer day. nope. 

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The buses were painted with famous San Francisco landmarks or people who lived there, like Robin Williams, Maya Angelou (who used to be a trolley driver! at 13!), Jimi Hendrix, to name a few. They also had shag carpeting and a manual transmission. It was so cool. They played 60’s music the whole ride and the tour guide was really knowledgeable about each neighborhood we drove through. My only complaint was that our tour left late (bus issues, no biggie) and because of that we didn’t/weren’t able to get out and take pictures or see things up close. When I booked the tour, I was under the impression that we were going to stop at to see the Golden Gate Bridge (the fog wasn’t so bad that day) and in the Haight-Ashbury, but we didn’t and I was a little bummed. I already wrote a review on TripAdvisor, as the tour guide asked, so don’t think I’m using my blog to bash them. The tour was excellent otherwise.

My favorite area was probably the Haight. That’s where the Summer of Love originated. It’s the 50th anniversary of that summer and I wish I was there now to see it being celebrated. I never thought of myself as a hippie or like I would have fit in better in the 60’s, but man, the Haight made me want to braid my hair, throw on some beads and bell bottoms, hop in a DeLorean and see what it was all about.

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Jimi Hendrix lived on top of what eventually became a smoke shop

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Janis Joplin used to live here. Not the best neighbor, apparently.

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The Greatful Dead’s former living space.

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The Hell’s Angels used to reside in this house.

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The biggest PRIDE flag in the country, some say the world.

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The Castro is filled with murals. There were alleyways filled with them. Again, we weren’t able to get out and I missed a lot of good ones, but I tried.

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Living in San Francisco proper is extremely expensive. I don’t even mean $10 for two 20oz bottles of Diet Coke. I mean over $3,000 a month rent in some places for a one bedroom studio. A ONE BEDROOM STUDIO! One bedroom and no walls. At least in New York, $3,000 would get you a two bedroom in a building with an elevator. Maybe. In the suburbs, it’s a mortgage payment on a pretty big house (I think. I still live with my roommates parents.)

The tour was supposed to take us down Lombard Street, which is the curviest street in America. California. The world. It’s really curvy and well known. Unfortunately, when we got there, it was closed off to vehicle traffic, which happens often. The residents want to close it off to any and all kinds of traffic eventually, which is problematic because how would they be able to access their homes? and two, who would enforce it? I can see their point though and if asked, I’d probably sign the petition.

Since we weren’t able to drive down the block, and that was the main reason I wanted to go on this tour, I made it my mission to get back. When the tour ended, it left us right next to the trolley turnaround. We hopped on the back of the line since one of the trolley’s stops was Lombard Street. About an hour later, we got on the trolley and started up the hill.

When the trolleys get to the turnaround, they stop on this jumbo sized lazy Susan and the workers manually spin it. Here’s a video.

Lombard Street was about five blocks up so we weren’t on the trolley for long. It was cold and windy so no one really minded. We got off when they announced the stop only to find out that the street was now open to vehicular traffic. I swear I almost called the tour company to come and pick us up. Since the street was open with cars on it, we walked on what would be the sidewalk but was really a shallow, long set of stairs. We got to the bottom and, of course, I was trying to channel Ansel Adams and get the perfect shot, but after about 10, I had to just give up.

We walked from the base of Lombard Street to Fisherman’s Wharf. If the streets were flat, it wouldn’t be bad, but the walk was about 6 long, steep blocks of hill. It was kind of scary because after a while my legs were like Jello. It felt like they were ready to give out at any minute. But was it worth it? TOTALLY. So authentic.

We went to the Wharf because we wanted to have a nice, seafood dinner that night and we needed to pick a place. We decided on Alioto’s, a place that’s been there forever and had white tablecloths. #fancy. We quickly Uber-ed back to the hotel to freshen up but Saturday was the coldest day and I felt like absolute crap so I didn’t do much with myself. Needless to say, no pictures were taken.

Sunday

Sunday we didn’t have much planned except for brunch, the PRIDE parade, Ghiradelli Square and a ghost tour at night. Ok, maybe that’s alot. We had brunch at Sweet Maple. I’m dreaming of my french toast. I rarely eat sweet things like pancakes or french toast for breakfast but I could eat this one at least 2 times a week.

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cornflake encrusted french toast.. come to mama

After brunch, we made our way over to see the parade. It was a few blocks from our hotel and where we were watching, it wasn’t too crowded. When I got home, my father told me he heard that the San Francisco parade had over a million people in attendance but the NYC one had about 500,000. I was surprised because, in New York, a million people feels like two million. It definitely didn’t feel like a million people in San Francisco. take note, NYC.

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CELEBRITY SIGHTING: Andrea Navedo from Orange is the New Black (and Jane the Virgin) on the Netflix float!

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CELEBRITY SIGHTING: Dascha Polanco and Samira Wiley on the back of the Netflix float!

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kind of in love with this picture. is it too late to spam it to every instagram in san francisco, hoping someone will repost it?

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his sign said “my safeword is impeach”

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After the parade, we went over to Ghiradelli Square because I was dying for a hot fudge sundae. I never got one, but I enjoyed looking around at all of the cute shops in the square. It also reminded me of many of my childhood vacations. Quaint. Chocolatey.

We kind of floated through until it was time to decide on dinner. Nicole was given a recommendation for a restaurant in Chinatown. House of Nanking is famous for their sesame chicken, so of course, I ordered noodles. Nicole got the chicken and both were delish.

 

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chinatown building, across from the house of nanking

 

When we were finished with dinner, we had time to kill so we walked to Union Square to meet up with our tour guide for the haunted tour. This tour and Saturday’s VW bus tour were the two I was most looking forward to. We met our guide, Momo, and immediately I wanted to take him home with me. His voice was so soothing, he was funny and also, in his spare time, a drag queen. He didn’t come dressed but I did notice lots of random glitter.

Momo took us to some notoriously haunted or really creepy places in the Union Square area. Since San Francisco is a relatively young city, it’s history wasn’t so much of a stretch. The only picture I took was of the lobby of the Westin Hotel, where Fatty Arbuckle may or may not have tried to molest a woman (definitely did) and ended up killing (smothering) her accidentally.

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Nicole was a little wary of this tour so imagine mine and Jessica’s delight when Momo led us right into our hotel. It turns out that in that very spot, a very entrepreneurial (is that a word?) woman opened up a brothel. Our hotel was also right across the street from the spot where the Zodiac Killer picked up his last victim before he disappeared (Momo’s storytelling and dramatics scared the stuffing out of me with this one.) We were a few blocks away from where Jim Jones thought up and recruited people for Jonestown. And my personal favorite, the Pinecrest Diner murder.

When Momo was done giving us the chills we went back to the hotel, where I packed and finished my noodles in bed.

Sorry this is so long, my friends! Stay tuned for just a quick (maybe) recap of what I wish I got to do/see, what I recommend, etc.

Catch up on day one and day two!

See you soon!

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my heart in [san francisco photo dump day 2]

Day 2 and we’re on a roll. For the record, my ears had pretty much fixed themselves after a good night’s sleep. thank heaven for little miracles. 

Our second day was chock full of tourist things. I love being a tourist and really taking in my surroundings. So this was the day I was most excited for. So excited, in fact, I was thisclose to buying a fanny pack. A neon, see through fanny pack. living my best life.

We started the day early with a $13 egg mcmuffin and coffee that is still making hair grow on my back from the market in the hotel. It was a blessing and a curse that little store. After breakfast, we all Uber-ed to the pier so that Jess and I could hop on the ferry to Alcatraz.

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Nicole doesn’t do boats so instead, she went to the Walt Disney Family Museum, which she loved. It was mostly how Disney started, where Walt got funding, etc.

Alcatraz was interesting. We decided to walk all the way up to the top of “The Rock” and get the headphones for the guided tour. I usually hate those tours, but this one was well done and nothing was really marked so it was nice to know what I was looking at.

i didn’t edit all of the pictures from Alcatraz but I wanted to share them so here’s a quick collage.

The last photo of the collage is Al Capone’s cell. Slightly underwhelming, frankly. His cell at Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania is all decorated as he had it when he was a resident there. Oh well. I love hearing stories of the Mob and old school gangsters and I thought that Alcatraz would be full of them, but not so much. Still a must see location. Go early though, it gets crowded.

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After Alcatraz, we met back up with Nicole and made our way over to meet our next tour, which was of the Muir Woods. Getting there meant we had to ride over the Golden Gate Bridge and let me tell you, I was like a kid in a candy store. Karl, the fog, had been hiding the bridge since we had gotten there. Apparently, though, the bridge is more visible from the other side. So when it’s foggy, you have to cross it to see it. The driver gave us 10 minutes to explore and then we were on our way. I took advantage of those 10 minutes and pushed my way to a good vantage point, found someone who spoke English, and had them take our picture. LIKE A GOOD TOURIST.

I was obsessed with finding the bridge because #iconic, but also because I feel like coming from a city with a few famous bridges, it would be a disservice if I missed out on seeing/visiting another famous bridge. Kind of like a diplomatic mission.

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I was so excited to finally see the giant redwoods. Are they really that big? Um. yes, probably bigger. They are gorgeous and I could have stayed there all day. It smelled like a zoo, minus the animals. Very woodsy (duh.)

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this was soo illegal. well, against park rules. we hopped the fence to get a picture but there’s a reason why the fences are there. apparently, the roots are very shallow and if they’re stepped on and damaged, the tree could die. also, i assume they don’t want people falling over the roots. we decided to be badasses and then we were able to high-tail it out of there before the park ranger showed up. i feel bad because i don’t want anything to happen to 8,000 year old trees because I needed a photo, but #photoopps. 

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After dodging the park ranger (see caption a few photos up), we started to head back to the bus. The tour was making a quick stop in Sausalito, which I have no pictures of. It is a very quaint town on the water. It reminded of almost every place I used to vacation in when I was younger. It was beachy, without the beach. Think pastel colored collared shirts and khaki/tan shorts, maybe a visor, Sperrys. Very money – not in a Guy Fieri way.

We had little time after we got back to the hotel to get ready and summon yet another Uber to take us to the Mets vs. Giants game. Jess is a huge Mets fan so she begged and we agreed to go. The fact that there were cookie ice cream sandwiches at the ballpark really sweetened the deal (pun kind of intended). Being real team players and supportive friends, Nicole and I surprised Jessica by buying and wearing San Francisco Giants shirts. Hey, we’ll go, but we aren’t going to go quietly.

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Remember how I said I wasn’t feeling well? Yea, that was still a thing and my throat was killing me by this point. The ballpark is right on the water and the nighttime fog was rolling in, bringing with it spritzes of rain. I was grossly underdressed (which I will talk about it a later post), so after the game, I was ready to hit the sack.

Day Three coming soon!

Experience day one here!

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weekend update: bridge views

Happy Monday! Except for me, it’s more like Wednesday since I’ve been working since Saturday.

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See what having a weekend job does to you? Or maybe it’s just me since tons of other people seem to cope much better than I do.

Anyway, I figured I would share what I did this weekend, even though it was technically Thursday and Friday.

Wednesday afternoon I got a text from Lisa asking if I wanted to go to the Promenade later that day. I’ve talked about the Promenade before. It’s in Brooklyn Heights, has excellent views of lower Manhattan and is where I spent most of my lunch breaks in college.

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So, we’re walking and enjoying a nice summer night in Brooklyn Heights. the views! the brownstones! the yuppies! oh my! At the same time, we look up and see the Brooklyn Bridge. “We should walk over the bridge,” Lisa says. “Ehh, I don’t know, Lee. I haven’t eaten. I hear it’s a steep incline. We should do it eventually, though.” I reply. “Yeah, you’re right. What do you want to eat?”

P.S. We walked over the Brooklyn Bridge.

After talking ourselves out of it, we figured, what the hell. After we got turned around looking for the footpath entrance, we were finally  on our way. Let me tell you, the entrance is like the long walk towards death. It starts to steadily incline and all of a sudden you’re walking over cars. Then, the bridge itself is wooden planks. I was terrified. There were people all over who DID NOT MOVE. On our right, we had the Tour de France passing on their bikes. Every time a bike sped passed, the boards moved, like a typical beach boardwalk. Except over cars and water. I think if I were able to calm down for a minute and catch my bearings, I would be OK, but in general, the whole walk was torture. I was mad at myself afterward because I feel like I missed out on a really great experience. I’d go again, but in the daytime and with a clearer head.

All of that being said, look at these views.
*i can’t figure out if these pictures are kind of blurry because i was shaking or if i was zoomed out too far and it was dark. just another reason to go over again.

Obviously, I’m obsessed with the Empire State Building. I almost forgot Brooklyn was on my side. Ok, I did forget that Brooklyn was on my side, but in my defense, when I looked that way, all I saw was cars under me and it freaked me out.

The Manhattan side of the bridge starts at City Hall park. Lisa and I took a rest and then were off to find food because I was starving to begin with, add to that my nerves, I was ravenous. And thirsty. SO THIRSTY. We wandered into the Financial District, which pretty much closes when the stock market closes. However, there were a lot more people milling around than I expected. We wound up hydrating at a Duane Reade and then getting on the train headed back to Brooklyn. All in all – something else to check off my bucket list.

Thursday I wanted to clean my room and I was so excited to do it. #adulting It turns out that I didn’t so much clean my room as I moved some things around and watched Kardashian reruns all afternoon. My legs were like jello for most of the day from my adventure the night before. That hill is no joke. Also, it’s my Saturday, after all. I went to dinner with my mom and that was basically it. There’s no photographic evidence but picture the two of us having really delicious salads, al fresco because, summer.

Friday it was back to the city for me and Lisa. We wanted to head to Central Park but we got a late start so we walked passed Lincoln Center and found Lady Gaga’s (parent’s) restaurant on the Upper West Side. It looks adorable and cozy and the menu sounds delicious. I didn’t bring my camera even though it was World Photography Day. I felt a little naked. So, again no photographic evidence, but I’ll leave you with the picture I posted on Instagram last year on World Photography Day.

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#meanttobe #soulmates #notplanned

How was your weekend?

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finalist squared.

According to Facebook, it’s been 10 days since I’ve last posted. TEN DAYS.

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I really don’t know what’s wrong with me or where my motivation went. I thought I was hitting a stride, and then, mid-leap I hit a wall. HARD. Anyway, not to make any empty promises, I’m going to get myself back on track, hopefully sooner rather than later.

I just wanted to hop on here and share with you guys some good news. Remember last year when I entered that photo contest and was picked as a finalist? Well, I entered again, and for the second time in a row, I was named a finalist! I submitted two photos but only one was chosen, and if we’re being honest, I’m not surprised at their choice.

*drumroll*

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The backstory on this one is that I took it on the same day that I took the last finalist photo (the hot dog vendor one). Unlike the first photo, I was immediately in love with this one and, by the time Lisa and I had left Central Park, I had convinced myself that this would be included in Time Magazine’s Most Iconic Photos of 2013. #conceitedmuch I’m still waiting for that phone call. Fast forward about two years when I donated a print of this to the Silent Auction at work. It was right when the war on cops and the Black Lives Matter movement was really starting to heat up. I showed it to my co-worker and she told me that it probably wouldn’t go over too well. I don’t work in the best of neighborhoods, to put it lightly. Discouraged and more than a little miffed, I donated it anyway and on the day of the auction, I watched it LIKE. A. HAWK. It didn’t get any bids. Not a single one.

Today, this baby is a finalist and I couldn’t be prouder.

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Like it’s sibling, it will be published in the Photographer’s Forum Best of Photography 2015 with my name written underneath it and a bunch of other cool things. Like a certificate and the knowledge that somewhere, in some school’s library there will be books with my pictures and name in them.

Take that, (silent auction) haters.

I’ll see you guys soon. Hopefully before the post I’ve written in my head deletes itself, because that’s annoying.

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NOLA in a nutshell (part two)

Now that you’ve digested (ba dum dum) part one of my NOLA recap, let’s move on to part two!

As I mentioned in my last post, I came to New Orleans for the photo opportunities. I mean, I wanted to have a good time and experience the city too, but food and photos were my top priority. This post is probably going to be photo heavier than the last one. You’ve been warned.

WHAT WE DID/SAW

Swamp tour – Taking a swamp tour was on my cousin’s list of definites. They offer a speedboat or a normal, not scary boat. We chose the normal boat over the speed boat (sorry, Dez!) and off to the swamp we went. We were told that we had come at a great time because all of the wildlife would be around. Score. This city girl was ready for some gators. Within the first 10 minutes we spotted our first gator.

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crikey.

The tour guide fed our new friend, Herman (the tour guides name them when they get older/bigger. this guy was too small for a name so i gave him one.) and made sure that both sides of the boat got a good view of him. They love hotdogs, marshmallows and hands with cameras. I took the guide’s word for it.

When Herman had enough of us, we moved on to see if we could find some pigs. Unfortunately, the tour that went out before us were kids on a school trip. That means the pigs had already had their fill of marshmallows and pig treats and wanted nothing to do with us. However, the trip to the pig section was straight out of The Little Mermaid and it took a lot for me to not sing Kiss the Girl. Ok, maybe I sang it a little. Just some sha la la la la my oh mys.

On the way back, we caught sight of another gator, Jerry (again, my name, not theirs). Jerry looks like a real jokester, but according to the tour guide, this is what alligators do to cool off and are known to sit this way for hours on end. Jerry wound up moving as we passed; dispelling any “that’s not real” myths. We also saw some turtles on the way back.

To get to the swamp, it was a 45-ish minute ride from the Quarter. We drove through neighborhoods that were obliterated by Hurricane Katrina. There were empty lots where houses and stores used to be. Whole apartment complexes and hospitals were standing there, gutted and untouched in a decade. Things are starting to come back but very slowly and it almost seems impossible to get back to 100%. Because I wasn’t familiar with the area and didn’t understand the true magnitude of Katrina, I didn’t realize how horrible it was. Hearing the bus driver say that the area used to be all built up and how many people from the area had died, it gave me a lump in my throat. Not that you have to be familiar with an area to feel bad for a terrible tragedy. It’s almost like being a New Yorker during 9/11, I guess.

The French Market – I have a love/hate relationship with flea markets. I love a good bargain but sometimes they can get schlocky. The French Market was a bit of both. It offered a little of everything –  artwork, photography, jewelry, masks, cellphone accessories, food. There weren’t many photography booths which is what I usually gravitate towards so I just wandered through. As I’m writing this now, I realize that I never went back for a mask like I intended. figures.

My cousin Desiree reported live on Snapchat (dla22 tell her I sent you! Or don’t. Just don’t be a creep.) the whole trip. I wish snaps lasted longer than 24 hours because you guys would have loved these.

Walking tour of the French Quarter and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 – Like I said in my last NOLA post, I came for the photo opportunities. I decided that the best way to do this was to hit the pavement. I strapped on my too tight sneakers, threw my camera around my neck and got to walking. The tour was filled with history. Well, New Orleans is filled with history but, I digress. New Orleans was owned at different times by the French, the Spanish and then, of course the United States. There are tons of French, Spanish and Caribbean influences in their architecture (and their food). The tour was two hours long, but to tell you the truth, if my feet didn’t suck and if it were offered, I could have hung out with the tour guide and walked around all day.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is one of the oldest cemeteries in the Quarter (I think. I’m really a horrible re-capper). The graves/crypts date back to the 17 and 1800’s. Each crypt is usually made of of people from the same family. God bless the crypt keepers because the process is a little much for me. Basically, the crypt is a small building with w ledge in it. The ledge has a hole in the back of it and underneath is all open space. When a person dies, they are waked(?) in a regular coffin. At the time of burial, the crypt keeper transfers the body into a simple pine box. It is then placed on the ledge and the crypt is closed for exactly one year. After that year, the crypt keeper opens the tomb and takes out the remains of the pine box. They then push the remains of the person to the back of the crypt where they fall through the hole and into the bottom of the crypt. It’s a little gross, a little intriguing, a little creepy. Enough crypt talk.

I was adamant about going to this particular cemetery because it is home to New Orleans voodoo priestess, Marie Laveau. I’m all about spells and potions so I wanted to see this for myself. It’s said that if you make a wish and leave an offering at Marie’s grave and it comes true, you must come back to her grave and draw 3 red Xs on the grave. The picture directly above this paragraph is Marie’s grave. The one above that is someone else in the voodoo world( i think. again, horrible re-capper.)  The cemetery constantly cleans Marie’s grave because it is always being vandalized. Personally, I think she’s floating around the Quarter somewhere.

Cooking class at the New Orleans School of Cooking – Taking a cooking class was never on my radar of things to do, especially on vacation but this was so much fun! We were in a group with 5 other people and a chef who taught us about the origins of Creole/Cajun cooking, what a roux is and what each different color means flavor wise, that cinnamon vaguely looks like sparkles when thrown into a flame. We broke into teams and got to cooking. I, of course, teamed up with my mom. For two reasons – one: she’s good at what she does and two: we work well together. until we don’t. The menu consisted of shrimp remoulade, chicken breast or pork chop stuffed with seafood cornbread stuffing and blueberry compote, glazed sweet potatoes, crepes with berries. According to the chef, Louisiana cooking is saltier that normal. That being said, my meal was a bit saltier that I would have liked since we followed the recipe. We got to keep a copy of the recipes that we made so I would definitely have my mom try her hand at the meal again. I mean, I would try too, but why waste time?

 

A tarot card reading in the French Quarter – After food and photos, my main goal was getting a reading. I didn’t care if it were tarot, palm, tea leaves, a medium – I just wanted to get read. Jackson Square in the day time is full of artists and their wares. Jackson Square at night is filled with readers. After dinner one night we were walking through Jackson Square back to our hotel and we noticed that the psychics were lined up, one card table after another. As much as I wanted to see Otis on Chartres Street at Bottom of the Cup tea room (he was on The Little Couple!), I have an affinity for mass psychics. They’re all over the Brooklyn street fairs in the summer and when I was younger I used to go for zeppolis and a reading. ahh youth.  Not wanting to be the guinea pig, I let my cousin’s friend Stephanie go first. I was next and, I’ll admit, I wasn’t satisfied with my shuffle, but I went with it anyway. When I was done, I went back to compare notes with Stephanie and it turns out the first part of our readings were almost identical. *side eye emoji* The psychic told me that I had to work with the Laws of Attraction to get what I want. She shamelessly plugged the Netflix doc, The Secret (i guess i just did too), and then explained to me how it works. Basically, the universe hears what you tell it so the LoA is you putting out to the universe what you want/need and it will come to you. Except it’s not as magical as it sounds. It’s not going to open the fridge and get me a Diet Coke on the rocks with a twist of lemon; I’m not Matilda, but if I learn how to really hone in to it and use it, it might get me a boyfriend or a well paying job. Right now, I’m aiming big and putting my order in to be a trophy wife. So Universe, let’s talk.

St. Louis Cathedral – As we all know, I’m pretty partial to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, but in reality, I love all cathedrals. Just like a North Jersey mansion, they’re big, filled with marble and ornate almost usually to the point of being gaudy. Saint Louis didn’t disappoint.

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I know I said I’d include the things I wish I would have done on this trip in this post, but I think I’ll do one more. I love a good trilogy. So, be on the lookout for the final installment of NOLA in a Nutshell.

*for reference, all of the photos in this post were taken on my new Nikon 1 J5 mirrorless camera and edited in PicMonkey. except the ones from the cooking class, those are phone photos.

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NOLA in a nutshell (part 1)

Friday marked a week since I got home from New Orleans. I had every intention of getting this post up even before then, but life happened, as it tends to do. Anyway, here I am with a NOLA recap.

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I was going to break this down day by day, but then I thought against it. When I was searching for places to go, things to do, where to eat, etc. I looked for travel blogs, regular blogs of people who go places, blogs of New Orleans – anything. I couldn’t find much of what I was looking for so I’m going to provide that service for the internet. you’re welcome.

We left for New Orleans on May 3rd. It was a week after Jazz fest and after the torrential downpours that they had that whole week. I was ready for heat and extreme humidity. The first day was humid. The rest of the days were absolutely gorgeous. The sun was hot, but the humidity, by the grace of God, was low. Like, 35% low.

WHERE WE STAYED

We stayed at the Maison Dupuy. Personally, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars. It was beautiful. The rooms were nice, but nothing to write home about, unless you are able to score one with a balcony. Because, fresh air.

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My biggest complaint about the hotel was that it was a little bit too far off the beaten trail. It was about 3 blocks from Bourbon Street, which isn’t terrible, but it’s about 7-10 blocks from the heart of the Quarter. With the uneven streets and having to sidestep homeless people, it’s a trek. However, the beds were super comfy, the pool was relaxing and the croissants were delish.

WHERE WE ATE

Other than the photo opportunities, I was most excited to experience the food. I was a little nervous about the spice, because, no thank you. My taste buds were delightfully surprised that they had nothing to worry about.

Cafe du Monde – beignets and frozen coffee FOR. THE. WIN. This was our first stop in the French Quarter and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a survival of the fittest seating system so the trick it to just take any empty table you find. The waiters and waitresses will clean it off while you wait. You can buy the famous chicory coffee and beignet mix at du Monde or you can get it in one of the two Cafe du Monde gift shops. The coffee also comes in K-cups. So there’s really no reason to not go home with some.

Jackson Brewery – We had lunch here. DEEE-lish. I had seafood and corn chowder in a bread bowl. WIN. Everyone else had burgers and they all raved about them. We also shared brisket and cheese fries. Holy shit. I could have dove in and did the backstroke through that pool of cheesy meaty potatoey goodness for the rest of the trip. Or for the rest of my life. Either or.

The sports bar across the street from Jackson Brewery – I don’t remember the name of this place, obvs, but we had lunch here on day 1 and it was pretty good. I recommend the fried pickles and the quesadilla.

Tujages – Housed in either the second oldest or THE oldest buildings in the French Quarter, Tujages (pronounced: two jacks) came highly recommended and it didn’t disappoint. I had the BBQ shrimp. They were served not shelled. Eating something that looked up at me was a little unnerving, but I got over that quick because they were really good. i’m a monster.

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Emeril’s Delmonico – If you follow me on Instagram, you saw that I felt 100% out of my league here. Delmonico’s is one of those high-class restaurants that your team of waiters ask you if you prefer bottled water or if tap is OK. tap is wonderful, THANK YOU. I fell in love with the ambiance at this place. The building is old and renovated but it kept its charm. The waiters were great. Very professional and Southern. Lots of “yes, mam’s and sir’s” flying around. I got the 4 out of 5 of us got the steak. My cousin got chicken. We were all very pleased. Then we shared sides. French fries with lemon aioli (yes), mac and cheese (yes), Brussel sprouts, (YES), collard greens (yes) and mashed potatoes (I went with the fries but I heard they were a yes). I was dying for a lemonade (#bey), but sometimes lemonade is tricky. I took the chance and ordered one and it was perfect. For dessert, we got the from the oven chocolate chip cookies with vanilla milk. I still have dreams about them. The cookies even had a little bit of salt sprinkled on top… #nextlevel.

The Napoleon House – Another lunch spot. Supposedly, Napoleon built this building for when he was in the area, except he never made it back because he was exiled. Or something. We came to the Napoleon House in search of muffalettas. Well, that’s why I was there. They serve them warm which I think, even though I didn’t try it cold, is the best way to eat it. It is a monster of a sandwich, filled with every Italian meat you could dream of, cheese and olives. I was a little turned off because I’m not the biggest green olive lover, but this version wasn’t overrun with them. I’ve been thinking of the muffaletta since I got home. I’m determined to find a substitute. Maybe I shouldn’t mention this, but after we were finished eating and getting ready to pay the bill, my aunt noticed a mouse scurrying around under the table The waitress explained that since everything is open and the building is old, this is a common occurrence. I get it, but still.. ehh. Doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t go back for anotha ‘letta.

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*i did not tackle this beast by myself. i shared it with my cousin’s friend. but, if we’re being honest, i would try to in a heartbeat.

Bistreaux– This was the restaurant connected to our hotel. We only had a quick breakfast there before running off to do fun things. We passed at lunchtime, though and the burgers looked really good. Like I said, the croissant was delicious. I also recommend the breakfast sandwich, served on, you guessed it – a croissant. The side of potatoes were a little too spicy for my morning meal, so, pass.  They offered iced coffee, which makes me so happy.

Court of the Two Sisters – First and foremost, it is beautiful. We were so lucky with the weather this trip and were able to sit outside. My mom, my aunt and I came for breakfast on our last day here. I love a good buffet and this was a good buffet. We got there at that awkward brunch time where there’s still breakfast out but they want to switch it over to all lunch. I was able to get an Eggs Benedict for breakfast that I enjoyed. The highlight of the meal was the scoop of creamed spinach I took. I’m going to need that recipe.

I’ve changed my mind about not breaking this into two posts. The next one will be about what we did, what I wish I got to do and overall experience. That one will also have the bulk of the pictures. Just like Christmas, it’s coming.

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belated bridal shower photo dump!

I’m here! I’m alive! Did you miss me? I didn’t go anywhere, procrastination has been my first, middle and last name lately. Hence, why I’m coming to you today with a recap from two weekends ago. whatever. my blog, my rules. 

Two Sundays ago, we gave Jessica a bridal shower. I wanted to share some pictures in my usual photo dump style. Is it too late for that? Is it officially irrelevant in blog time? whatever. MY BLOG, MY RULES.

When Jessica asked all 586933 girls to be bridesmaids, she decided that she was not going to have a Maid of Honor. Instead, she gave each girl a specific task that encompasses the role of bridesmaid and Maid of Honor. One of my tasks was to, with Lisa and Nicole, help Jessica’s mom plan the shower. Jessica is simple and classic. Her mom, and I say this out of love and because I’ve been friends with Jess for almost 25(!) years, lives in a Laura Ashley showroom. Opposites are an understatement.

The shower’s theme was Love Birds. I have to admit – I’m totally obsessed. I love bird cages; they’re so pretty. I’m not the biggest fan of birds so I was careful to only incorporate the cute ones.

Let’s get to (photo) dumping!

The shower was supposed to be a surprise, but well, are bridal showers ever really a surprise?

The party was finally underway. Surprise parties, whether they’re a true surprise or not, always make me nervous. Like, jello leg nervous. At this point, I was hoping that Jess came in and loved the room and all of the little touches that make showers special. Taking away the fact that you’re in a room full of people who love you and only want the best for you and your future spouse. That’s pretty special too.

Then we did a panty line. If I remember, I’ll post the little poem that goes with it on here, someday. I’m not making any promises though, so if you want/need it you might as well Google it.

Finally, it was time for gifts. If you’re wondering, we did eat in the midst of all this. Boy, did we eat. The shower was at a steakhouse, need I say more? delish! And don’t worry, I’m not going to include all the pictures of the gifts. It’s the most boring part of any shower. I wouldn’t do that to you.

After cake, it was time to leave. My feet were so thankful because they don’t play well with heels. They were gearing up for the next day when I had my job’s annual Spring Fling. But that’s for next time.

I hope this wasn’t too boring for you. I figured, in keeping with the my blog, my rules deal, I should post it for posterity’s sake. You know, in case Facebook ever loses my pictures and I need a throwback Thursday picture or something.

See you soon!

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if i say “strap” one more time…

Ugggghhhh. I have two other posts that I wanted to get up. WHY ARE THEY NOT EVEN WRITTEN?

Sorry, I needed a moment. I will get those posts up, they’re actually that delayed weekend update from last week that I was going to break into two posts. I’m working on it.

Anyway.

Along with talking about Harry Styles (i’m starting to think i’m bringing him up on purpose now. #yolo), sharing my photos of Central Park and generally complaining about life, I like to use this blog to share things with my fans whoever is reading it. This is one of those posts.

Somewhere near the middle to the end of last year (the year before?) I bought myself a camera scarf. It’s the best invention ever. It’s a camera strap made out of a nice, wearable scarf. I used it all Winter. It kept my neck warm and my camera safely around my neck. I used to use the strap that came with the camera but after it opened and fell right off, thankfully in a pile of sand, I decided I needed something else. This year, on my annual pilgrimage to Macys to see the Christmas windows, the scarf got stuck in the zipper of my camera bag. Long story short, it got physical and now I need a new camera bag and my scarf got ripped.

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coincidentally, i can use this GIF for many aspects of my life. #dramaqueen

Since then I’ve been on the hunt for either a new scarf or a new camera strap. Then I bought my new Nikon 1 J5 and my search went into high gear. I went back to Etsy, where I got my first camera scarf. I went straight to that shop but there wasn’t anything that was screaming “BUY ME”. Don’t get me wrong, I loooveee the product, I just didn’t want to buy something just to buy it. Back to the search page I went. Finally, I saw the most perfect scarf strap. I immediately went to the shop and fell in love.

Introducing: Peace Grenade

*let me first apologize for these pictures. I was too excited to attach my strap to my camera to plan anything out. Also, I have not yet mastered the flat-lay. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

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The strap is black and white stripes with flowers on it. Very Kate Spade, which I’m all about. There were four options for the ends – black, white, gold and glitter. Obviously, I wanted to keep mine simple, so I went with the glitter.

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I placed my order on Saturday night and got it Monday afternoon. I didn’t even have to pay for expedited shipping! By that alone, this shop earned so many brownie points. Shipping costs/time are one of my biggest pet peeves, but that’s for another post. I feel like I should add, the keychain rings that are shown in the above picture are mine. The photos on Etsy showed rings and I assumed they came with the strap. The original cords alone would never fit where they’re supposed to go on my camera. I should have emailed the seller or paid attention to the description, but it’s fine. No harm, no foul.

The flip side of the strap is a satin-y material which will be nice and soft around the neck. The strap is padded also, which is great because my new camera’s lens is heavy. The best part about this experience is the seller threw little hearts cut from dryer sheets into the envelope. YUM. excellent touch.

I’m already stalking Love Grenade for new styles and planning on my next purchase. i want them all, no joke.

Go over and check it out! Like, right now. Perfect gift for your photographer friend or favorite blogger, maybe?

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a (sort of belated) friday favorites

Hi, friends! It’s Friday, who’s excited? I mean, duh.

I was supposed to have this post up last week, but whatever. I had an abnormally full week of work last week and it got away from me.

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Today I’m coming to you with a Friday Favorites, what else?

Kodiak Cakes

I saw these on Instagram a few months ago and since then, I’ve been on the hunt. They’re the Easy Mac of pancakes. Except they’re healthy. I finally found them at Target and got the Cinnamon Maple and Blueberry Maple flavors. By now I’ve tried both and they’re pretty good. They’re a little dry, so I put a little butter on top. I’m going to keep my eye out for more flavors and for the Minute Muffins, because who doesn’t love a good muffin? Unless they’re savory because, no.

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James Bay

I’ve mentioned my new found love of Mr. Bae Bay before, but since we use YouTube for music at work and there’s only so much hip hop I could listen to (don’t get me wrong, i’ll listen to anything, but i can’t with some of these songs. and why won’t chris brown go away? sorry, he will always be a piece of shit in my book), I like to sneak over and put on some 1D or Adele or, my newest favorite Brit, Jim Bay. I can listen to Let It Go on repeat, but I’m also loving Best Fake Smile. I don’t know what it is about skinny British musicians with long hair and a penchant for hats, but there’s something and I’m not complaining.

james and harry

one day i’ll get through a post without mentioning harry. one day.

I still have love for my guys who look like they be in ads for watches, though.

Nicole and Jionni’s Shore Flip (FYI channel)

I love these two; they’re absolutely made for TV. From meeting drunkenly at Karma and breaking the cardinal rule of never falling in love at the Jersey Shore, to ending it in Italy and eventually pulling it together and making a family – we’ve been through a lot together.

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Anyway, Snooki Nicole and her husband, Jionni are now house flippers. He’s actually very handy and, of course, has friends and family in the construction game. What kind of Jersey boy would he be if he didn’t? Nicole (it doesn’t get any less weird the more you call her that, trust me) has a really creative side and I like to watch her put a room together. Honestly, I’d love for her to come in and decorate my house. See? a leopard could change its spots!

The Cookie Monster/ SIRI commercial

We all know that I love a good commercial and this one does not disappoint. The first time I watched it, I laughed the whole way through. Who am I kidding? I laugh every time I watch it.

Nikon 1 J5

I put this little beauty on my Christmas wish list that apparently got lost on the way to the North Pole. I finally had enough money saved, plus a little help from Uncle Sam, to buy it. She’s a mirrorless camera, which as far as I can tell, means you get all of the bells and whistles of a regular DSLR camera in a compact size. There’s definite differences in the two types of cameras, but as I get used to the new one, the more I’m liking it. There’s always a bit of a learning curve with these things and hopefully I’ll get over the hump soon.

Well, friends, that about does it. How was your week?

Let’s discuss!

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a little ball of nerves, mixed with hope, a healthy dash of desperation and some uncertainty.

Hey guys! Long time, no blog, I feel. There’s a bunch of interesting things going on with me right now. Some I am not even ready to talk about yet; still cooking, if you will. But, I did want to fill you in on what I could so here we go.

it has taken so long to get this post started – with editing photos and finding gifs –  i feel so out of practice.

Last week I had a meeting with someone at an employment agency. I’m not the most comfortable with going into the city by myself but I’ll do it when it is absolutely necessary and getting a new job is absolutely necessary. Armed with my MetroCard and my resume I hopped on the train and was on my way. I felt like Pee-Wee; on a big adventure.

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I had to take the train to 42nd Street/Grand Central. The train ride was faster than I anticipated so I got there much earlier than expected. This worked out in my favor because I was a little ball of nerves, mixed with hope, a healthy dash of desperation and some uncertainty. To combat this, I tried to put myself into my happy place (which is usually Central Park, but more on that later). I wanted to bring my camera, but decided that would be a little weird so I said a prayer to the camera phone gods that mine wouldn’t act up and took a detour to the Main Concourse for some distraction photography.

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Fun fact: the third level of the Main Concourse is an Apple store. I had no idea until I stormed up there for a better angle. They were nice about it, but I felt like I was intruding so I snapped a few shots on my non-iPhone and quickly scuttled out of there. I could have explored Grand Central for hours, but I had a potentially life-changing meeting to get to so I tore myself away.

I was still running pretty early so once I knew I was close enough to where I had to be, I found a McDonalds where I had my second iced coffee of the day. It wasn’t the best idea because too much coffee gives me the shakes, but I figured, what the hell, at least I’ll be on my toes. When I couldn’t wait/stall any longer I gathered myself and headed for my meeting. I walked in, signed in with security, hit the button for the 3rd floor, and eventually figured out that I was in the wrong building. and we’re off to a good start. Back down I went.

I walked next door, to the correct building, signed in, hit the button for the third floor and was finally on my way to new beginnings. I filled out all of the necessary paperwork and then I waited. My name was called, I was escorted to a conference room and then I waited. Over 30 minutes later, my recruiter comes in. I’m not going to go into details, but I will say that my hope was rapidly decreasing and my anxiety was rapidly increasing. That’s what happens when it is implied that you’ve lied on your resume (which i would never, ever do). As soon as I was told that I could leave, I gathered my stuff and got out of there.

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Like I said before, I wanted to bring my camera so that when I was done, I could celebrate taking this first step to emancipation by walking around Central Park taking pictures. Since I decided against bringing it and I was feeling low, I walked the other way, towards Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. I should have gone to the park because AJ from the Backstreet Boys was there with his wife and daughter. I could have asked him for a little I Want It That Way to boost my spirits. Oh well.

Anyway, I walked to Saint Pat’s because I wanted to light a candle. I love lighting candles there because they’re legitimate candles. At my local church, all you do is press a button and a light comes on. Call me crazy, but it sort of loses something. When I walked in I noticed that there was a mass going on. I figured I’d light the candle, sit for a minute and then sneak out the back. I asked the security guard when mass was over because I wanted to take pictures and the Catholic in me just couldn’t do it when the priest was giving communion. I lit my candle and decided to sit for a minute; the Catholic guilt about sneaking out was too strong. I was a bit in awe of the people walking around taking pictures in the middle of mass. Frankly, I was getting annoyed because even though I know this is not an everyday kind of experience and that most, if not all, of the photographers/gawkers were tourists, it just felt rude to me. Then I realized that I was receiving mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Granted, Cardinal Dolan wasn’t up at the altar and it seems like at lunchtime they sort of become a mass factory, but still, I had to stay. Eventually, the rituals of the mass came back to me and I found myself reciting all of the prayers from my childhood. I fit right in. When it was over and I knew there was a half an hour before the next one started, I got up and walked around a little bit. I took some pictures, but definitely want to go back with my regular camera because, STAINED GLASS.

After I left Saint Pat’s I was going to get something to eat but honestly, I was ready to go home. Luckily, the bus was on its way so I waited for it and just over an hour later, I was pulling in to my stop.

So that’s my update. I’m finally starting to take my job in my hands. The meeting might not have been what I wanted it to be but, I didn’t know what to expect at all so it is what it is. I’m going to fix my resume and send it back to them and see where that takes me. I’ll definitely keep you posted!

What’s up with you?

Let’s discuss!

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