March 31, 2011

oh ye of little faith wanna cookie?

I will admit that lately I've been slightly M.I.A. over here at D2BD and for that I am sorry. It seems like most of my time is taken up either by work, working out or life in general. Once I'm at home for the evening I like to unplug from the grid and just relax with Mike, watch some DVRed entertainment and get a full 7-8 hours of sleep. Granny what? I just want you to know I am thinking of you and wondering what I could chat about next that might entertain the masses. Lately all I can truly focus on or find as inspiration to blog about is my current weight loss struggle, but I didn't want to turn this blog into a weight loss blog at all. Instead I started Cocktails and Cardio so that those of you who don't want to listen to my woes can have that option. However, you will still be stuck with my bitching, so get over it. Ha! To those of you who have joined me over there at C and C with words of encouragement and following me - thank you so much! I means a lot to me to have a support system not just at home but on the internet as well. Opening up about stuff like this hasn't been easy for me, and your support gives me the power to be as honest with myself as I can. As women do I hold a lot of guilt about being perfect, or good enough and I hate that. I am good enough gosh darn it and people like me! Is what I try to tell myself everyday.

I don't want my current diet, that will eventually into a healthy way of living instead of just a diet won't effect the way I think about everything but, for now I know I need to focus on it. To me the word diet sounds so temporary. I don't want a quick fix or a temporary band-aid I want a lifestyle change so that's what I've been working on.

I thought about posting this over on the weight loss diary side of town since it has to do with food but then figured no, it's a legit bitch session rant and I might as well share it here with all of you lovelies for shits n' giggles. First and foremost - I don't obsess about food. I'm not going all LeAnn Rimes on you peeps, promise! Yes it's at the forefront of most of my thoughts and plans as well as way I run my days but I'm just trying to get myself in the frame of mind that in the future I won't rely on counting calories every. single. waking. minute. of my day!

So what am I wanting to bitch about? Well here goes. Usually on Wednesdays when I get paid Mike and I decide to eat lunch out on the town. We eat most of our weekly lunches at home, unless we have to pay a bill or do something else on our lunch break. When this happens we are usually at the mercy of the fast food gods for a quick meal on a budget. Sometimes I will splurge and take us to our favorite mini Gourmet Cafe in town but yesterday with our rent being due this wasn't an option. Besides I'd rather save that $20 lunch tab and get more delicious food to stock our fridge with.

After a moment of rock-paper-scissors we decided on McDonald's. Yes the dreaded McDevil! I went in armed and ready with my order. Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad and a Diet Coke. The main reason I can be OK with ordering this and not feel too deprived is that Mike usually gets a burger and fries. Today was no different. The woman behind the counter nicely offered to him "If you make your value meal a large today we will throw in a free cookie." My heart sort of sank, not only are fries a weakness but so are cookies. Why don't you just toss in an extra 5 lbs. of weight for me while you're at it cashier?!?!?  Mike got his large [he would have anyway] and we were granted one glorious chocolate chip cookie.

My usual routine at McD's if I'm being good is to take a pinch of Mike's fries and set them off to the side of my salad. I really like the Southwest salad because I don't need the dressing. Whatever they dress the chicken with usually is enough liquid, along with the black bean and corn salsa to make a "sort of" dressing. I usually make a small pool of the dressing on the lid and will sometimes dip my fork in it before eating some of the chicken, but this is rare. It's delicious but really not anything over the top to write home about. If I don't need it or miss it, why bother with the extra calories and fat right? Instead I'll have my 5-6 french fries, get my fix of the salty goodness and move on.

While I ate that cookie called to me. I didn't think Mike was interested in eating it until he finished his meal and opened the cookie bag. The only child inside my head started to scream "YOU AREN'T GOING TO EAT ALL THAT ARE YOU!?!?! I WANTED IT!" Truly, I didn't need the cookie but I wanted that bitch. They didn't need to offer it either. Mike being the kind and considerate boyfriend that he is broke the treat in half and put my half back in the wrapper. I watched him eat it out of the corner of my eye and continued on with my salad. I didn't hear a single "MMM..." out of him so I had to ask.. "Is it any good?" He just replied "Ah, it's ok. It just tastes like those store bought ready bake cookies."

At first I thought - I don't need it. It's not worth it, girl. Then I realized how much I'd been craving chocolate for the past few days and if I just gave my body the taste I'd be over the craving and move on. If I get it in my head I want something no substitute is going to take that away. Trust me I've tried. So I caved. I caved and savored each of the 4 bites it took to finish the cookie. Mike was right, totally store bought rip off, but the chocolate was slightly melted and it made it worth it, to me.

When I got back to work and checked the calories of how much it was for half of that cookie it was sort of disappointing but still, I enjoyed it.

My bitch session is this: McDonald's wants to constantly say they are trying to give us healthy choices and appeal to everyone and in my opinion they want to appeal to everyone and make us all overweight not healthy. There is no money apparently in healthy food sources for America. Why can't you get a free cookie with a regular sized meal? I ordered a salad with a small soda and didn't get offered jack. Sure I probably didn't want it since I ordered the lighter meal but still - why are the only people awarded [or punished depending on how you look at it] the cookie the ones eating the horrible food? Such is life I guess.  I love how they are marketing their oatmeal as healthy - sure it might be better than some of the other breakfast options but it and the yogurt smoothies are far from health food. I just wish for once my town could get a healthy fast food option even if it was a mom and pop place. Note to self: Stop eating McEvil, even if you're in a pinch. Back away from it, girl.

Do places around you do this same type of thing?


In other news, this week is the last week, of my first month doing ChaLean Extreme and I'm in love with the program! I look forward to sharing my results over on CandC and here too!
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March 21, 2011

spring has sprung.

Spring is here in the South and I couldn't be happier. All the trees are in full bloom, and my allergies are on full alert. It's time for flip flops to be busted out, kayaks to be dusted off and front porch living to get under way. Mike, myself and his brother JO spent Saturday afternoon chilling out on our front porch. We enjoyed good conversation, a ton of laughs and sipped on beverages well until the sun went down. Once the sun was down we grilled out. We cooked up chicken, squash, zuccini and baked sweet potatoes all the while rocking out to some classic Bruce aka The Boss.  You just can't go wrong with that.

Spring is here, and Life is Good!

I was still sipping on ice water at this point 
but representing UNC at the same time. GO HEELS!

Has spring sprung where you live yet?

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March 17, 2011

irish blessings

It's St. Patrick's Day!!!! I know you have all heard the old saying... I'm not Irish, but I've had Irish in me right? Well it's true for me. Yep, I went there. For the record, Mike is Irish. I'll let that marinate in your brain for a moment.  Finished? Not yet... gross! You perv! Anyclover...

I wanted to say to all my readers both 
Irish and Not and also the only Irish at certain times...
HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY!!!!
via
I thought I'd send a few Irish Blessings your way: 
From my English/German/Dutch/Sometimes Irish heart to yours!
So cheers to you and your green bears or martinis!
Happy St. Patrick's Day one and All! ox

When Irish eyes are smiling,
Tis like a morn in spring.
With a lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing
When Irish hearts are happy
All the world is bright and gay
When Irish eyes are smiling
Sure, they steal your heart away.

May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.

May you be in
Heaven a half hour before the
Devil knows you're dead!
[my favorite]

There are many good reasons for drinking,
One has just entered my head.
If a man doesn't drink when he's living,
How in the hell can he drink when he's dead?

May the best day of your past
Be the worst day of your future.

For more go here.

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March 16, 2011

a soldier's coming home.

As some of you may remember a year ago I posted a blog about my cousin, L leaving for Iraq for a year. I'm thankful, happy and so proud to say that the year is over and he arrived back home last week. Safe, sound and into the arms of his wife and two adorable daughters. I couldn't be more proud of him, his unit and all our troops nationwide. Please continue to support the men and women of the U.S. Military and thank them daily!!! And while you're at it, don't forget the men and women that stand beside these soldiers and hold down the fort for them while the troops are away. Like my buddy, Ally!

Cute story, a week before L was to arrive home some military helicopters flew over their home. His oldest daughter looked up and said to her mom. "I wish daddy was on one of those helicopters and could just parachute down to be with us."

Family Reunited!
This image makes me melt. I love you L! oxox
I am so happy to have you home!

It's the little things in life that mean so much, 
but what means even more are the people in our lives. 
I want to personally thank my cousin and all the troops 
for everything they do for us, our freedom and our country! oxox

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March 14, 2011

Light Louisiana Gumbo

In an effort to stick to my Project 52 goals I've started cooking something new at least once a month. Now that I'm back on the "eating healthy wagon" [for life, and you can quote me on that!] and trying to lose weight I've been keeping my eye out for healthy and light options for new meals.

The other day while paging through a new SELF magazine I came across a recipe for Light Gumbo. I was skeptical of course, but after reading the ingredients I got excited about trying to make it. The fresher the ingredients to me the better something is going to taste and the better it's going to be for me and Mike.

I wanted to share this recipe with you because it was too delicious not to. And I figured why would I share half delicious or down right gross food with you right? Please note that while I am trying new recipes all the time I'm only going to share with you the ones that I truly enjoy! You have my word on that.

Save 200 calories—enough for a Hurricane!
with Skinny Chef Jennifer Iserloh's slimmed-down spin 
on a New Orleans classic.
via self
INGREDIENTS
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 chicken sausages, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
3 cups chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup cored, seeded and chopped green bell pepper
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup packed chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
15 oz diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 lb medium shrimp, shelled and deveined (about 20 shrimp)
16 oz frozen sliced okra
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley


PREPARATION
Sprinkle chicken with Cajun seasoning. Heat oil in large pot over high heat. Brown chicken and sausage, turning once, 2 to 3 minutes. Add celery, onion, bell pepper, garlic and thyme. Cook until vegetables start to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1 tbsp water if vegetables stick. Reduce heat to medium. Sprinkle flour over meat-vegetable mixture. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, juice and broth. Simmer, covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add shrimp and okra; simmer, covered, until shrimp is cooked through and okra is tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Garnish with parsley.

THE SKINNY
4 Servings, 276 calories per 2 cups, 7 g fat (1 g saturated), 26 g carbs, 8 g fiber, 27 g protein

D2BD's NOTES:
I was shocked to see the calorie count for this meal. It's so filling and SO good. I will admit I added extra Cajun seasoning to make it hot. You could always use hot sauce to doctor yours up if you like it spicy and I also added a bit of Old Bay Seasoning to the Shrimp before cooking and pepper and went light on the salt when added to the pot. This stuff was AMAZING!!! I also had to substitute turkey sausage for chicken sausage since Wally World here doesn't carry it. There are a lot of things that Wally World doesn't carry but that's a bitch session for another time. I also added three chicken breasts instead of just one, since we were expecting company to share this with us and we like to use left overs for lunches. I usually use the rule of thumb 1 chicken breast per person when making spaghetti or soup but in this case we had three left in our old pack of chicken, and honestly with the shrimp and the sausage you truly don't need the extra chicken. I just wanted to finish off the package of chicken and be sure that Mike and his brother had enough meat, they are growing men after all.

I hope if you like gumbo and Cajun cooking you'll give this a try. With spring and summer right around the corner I know it's hard to think about eating warm soups, stews or gumbos but this is an amazing bowl of delicious and one not to miss! It was the perfect ending to a long weekend.

Mike made some beer drop biscuits to go with this and I also made a pot of wild rice as a side. Mike mixed the rice into his gumbo which is traditional but as you know will add to the calorie count of this meal. The biscuits were amazing! He used an instant biscuit mix and substituted room temperature beer for the water that you add. The beer gives the biscuits a deeper flavor, the darker the beer the more flavor you will get. Simply drop the biscuit batter on a non-stick baking sheet and and bake according to the package directions. You can also roll these out and cut them as you would a traditional biscuit but we weren't in the mood for all that last night. I limited myself to 2 small biscuits [seriously, they were super small and flat] without butter and a small side of rice that I didn't finish due to how filling my 2 cups gumbo actually was.

This recipe doesn't disappoint!!! SO ENJOY!!!!

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March 11, 2011

fixation friday: japan and beyond



The earthquake in Japan and tsunami waves hitting Hawaii as well as the West Coast of the US is truly the only thing I can think about, much less concentrate on today. I wanted to keep the mood light today but it's difficult. I do want you all to know my heart is broken for the families in these areas and my thoughts and prayers have been non-stop on these events all day long.

I started my morning waking up refreshed and alive - after my ChaLean workout kicked my butt last night I retired to the bed at 9PM not to watch tv but to sleep hardcore. I even missed Chelsea Lately, this is NOT like me. I got out of bed and Mike asked me to come into the living room to tell me what had been happening while I slept peacefully this morning. The footage of Japan literally brought me to my knees. I sat down on the floor and each flash of footage led to more and more tears falling from my eyes. The uncertainty of what would happen next, was it over? Would there be more? How many people were hurt, how many killed? It all ran through my head. Natural disasters are horrible and my gut was wrenching for these people. Quickly the panic turned to Hawaii and it was all that I could do to get up and go shower and go about my day. I said a prayer for all involved as well as the looming doom that might come to Hawaii, Alaska, and the rest of our West Coast. Let's just say getting ready today and driving down the street it's all I've thought about. The sun is shining here in Alabama the birds are chirping and most people down town seem oblivious to the happenings around the world today. I felt blessed and thankful to have the small town that I live in untouched by such things, but at the same time felt a bit selfish. Every day truly is a blessing to us all. One more day to live is one more day to make things right in the world. I hope that you will take that message today when you hug your loved ones or kiss your children goodnight. When you bust your butts at the gym or workout at home, be thankful you have that to do today. Then also think of everyone around the world who are less fortunate than you are and say a prayer for them, or whatever you may believe in, simply send good vibes their way.
 • • •
In other news that I'm fixated on, my cousin arrived home safe and sound this week from Iraq and I couldn't be happier. It's been quite a ride having him gone but seeing him back in his families arms is what makes me heart sing more than I could tell you. Thank you again to all our troops for all they do!

In the weight of everything at hand, try to remember your blessings and that it's Friday!
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March 09, 2011

giving it up... for 40 days.

First let me start by saying this, I'm not Catholic and I've never participated in Lent. I've had my share of Fat Tuesdays in the past but I've never had an Ash Wednesday. Although this year for the hell of it I thought I would play along with Lent proceedings and pick something to give up for 40 days. I do like the message behind Lent and in a land of excess and greed it feels good to give something up instead of insisting on taking more in.

My item to give up for Lent is simple....
I'm not going to use sugar in my coffee for 40 days.


Why? Find out here.

So what are you giving up for Lent if anything?


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March 04, 2011

big easy: she's anything but easy.

Mike and I are back from vacation, and I'd love to say well rested but, that would be a lie. Usually when I return from a vacation I feel refreshed and ready to take on the world, instead I feel a bit chewed up and spit out - repeatedly...

I guess I will start from the beginning, that's usually the best place to start, right? Mike and I arrived in The Big Easy on Friday afternoon around 2:30 p.m. It was a long but enjoyable trip - if I had to choose anyone to roadtrip with on the regular, it would be Mike. While we don't always agree on the choice of music, we usually don't even need any. Between our conversations and naps we seem to be able to entertain ourselves. That isn't to say we didn't jam out a little bit. We mellowed out to the sounds of the Grateful Dead and then kicked things up a notch grooving to Pearl Jam and entered New Orleans rocking to one of my favorite bands, the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Once in city limits we quickly found the route to the parking deck we decided to let the Jeep stay in for the weekend and grabbed all our stuff. We forgot the minor detail of what floor we parked on, I'm usually really good about this, so I'll blame the lack of taking note on the fact that I was super excited to be in NOLA once again. It was a bit annoying to have to park the Jeep and then walk to the hotel - it was only about a block away which isn't a big deal when you're simply walking but when carrying your luggage [and we all know how most ladies pack, I'm totally a classic case of a lady who over packs, religiously], a purse, a bag holding your make-up and bathroom supplies and trying to keep up with your boyfriend who is toting his smaller luggage, a cooler full of mixer and ice as well as a brown bag full of liquor [we come prepared] it's no small feat or cake walk, let me tell you. A bit breathless, and starting to get a rage of a sweat on we arrived at the lobby of our hotel. The lobby was cute, quaint and welcoming which was just what we needed after our 6 hour drive. We were quickly checked in and informed that our hotel room had already been paid for - we brought extra money to pay when we got there but it turns out that hotel.com actually charges your card at the time of reservation. Normally I'd be a bit angry, but, this just meant more spending money for the trip in hand and that my friends, rocks hardcore! If you're curious we stayed at the Parc St. Charles Hotel. I'll give you a quick run down of my opinion of the place at the end of this.

We quickly [well as quickly as the slow ass elevator would allow] made it up to the 8th floor and to our room. 801, first off the elevator. I was originally worried about this because I used to live in a college apartment complex and my apartment was right off the elevator, it made for many weeknights of blissful sleep interrupted by drunks at 2:00 AM, thankfully I didn't plan on passing out early while in New Orleans so we were good to go. Upon opening the hotel room door we were floored, the room was HUGE! Not only did we have a comfy queen bed, but also a fold out couch - a big closet and a seating area for coffee and if we had a lap top even a desk to use, AWESOME! [The table was actually used to mix cocktails, not really enjoy coffee but you get the point, we had many surfaces, for many uses and we took full advantage of that... wait that sounded dirty...] MOVING ON... The back wall of the room was all windows with a view out the front of the building. Not the best view mind you but we were right on a parade route so we did get a skewed view of what was important. Even the bathroom was spacious - if it had a vent for the A/C it would have been party central, but alas, shutting the door to pee even proved to be a bit too warm for my liking but over all I give the hotel room a solid 4 out of 5. The hotel itself was clean, in some areas could use some repair with wallpaper or slightly stained carpets but honestly if you are trying to find a hotel, at a great price, fairly close to all the action [we were only a few blocks from Canal Street and a short walk to the French Quarter] this is a great place to say. Furthermore if your plan is to party your ass off, this hotel fits the bill perfectly. I did have to deal with the noise from a few drunks in the middle of the first night but all in all it was truly no big deal.

After inspecting the room and cranking the A/C the two of us quickly changed into more comfortable clothing. The weather was a bit warmer than we anticipated, weather.com isn't always right kids. We made ourselves a rum and diet drink each and hit the streets with our travel cups. The beauty of NOLA is that you can carry open containers anywhere, unless it's noted that outside containers are not welcome. I do believe that glass bottles are not permitted on the streets but you can carry a can all day long, possibly in a brown bag but that's just not something I'm used to.

We walked around town, down to the French Quarter and over to the mall. I'm sure you're wondering why we hit up the mall first, well it was closer to our hotel, and our travel cups were FAT TUESDAY cups, which means, discounted refills and yes, in the mall!!! I would love to be able to get liquored up at the mall and shop, although this would be dangerous if it was regular behavior for me. We filled up our drink bottles at Fat Tuesdays, after sampling all the different frozen flavors, and proceeded to tool around a bit. I quickly realized how uncomfortable my weekend was going to be, I didn't bring shorts, or even shoes that were meant for spring weather. I brought practical boots that were comfortable, but not meant for 80+degree weather. The search went on but I was hesitant to spend money right of the bat for new shoes, most of which were pricey and not in my "budget" for the weekend.

After walking, sweating and drinking we made our way back to the hotel again to change for dinner and relax a bit. My mission was to find the old pizza place we enjoyed over and over on our first trip to NOLA last October. A friend of ours told us it had closed and I refused to take that as a final answer. We went back down to Canal and I retraced my steps from the last trip to town and there it was like a beacon of light, the French Quarter Pizzeria! [Seriously, I want to take this pizza out behind the middle school and get it pregnant it's so damn good!]  After two great thin crusted slices of pepperoni heaven and 2 cold beers we were ready to rock Bourbon Street.

I wasn't sure what to expect, the night was still a bit young, it was only around 9:30 pm.  Mike seemed upset and disappointed that it was so quiet down there - while it was busy it wasn't the crazy Mardi Gras he remembered from 7 years go. I told him to keep the faith it was early and most people probably hadn't settled into their rooms yet. We walked around and grabbed more frozen drinks and enjoyed the scenery. We missed the first parade scheduled for the area where we were staying so we hadn't yet came upon many beads... that all changed when Mike got into full Mardi Gras mode and started hollering to the balconies. I will be the first to admit I didn't go all out for Mardi Gras... my puppies stayed in their cage and I did not share my chest with anyone but Mike on this trip. Prude of me? Yes... but I just wasn't feeling it. Sorry... no pictures fellas.

We retired a bit early on our first night - after getting up super early, walking most of the day after a long drive and being a bit tipsy we both agreed we were OK with calling it a night. I'm actually glad we did. This in turn made it easier to get up on Saturday morning to enjoy the city.

Saturday morning we were up and out of the hotel room before 9:00 AM! HOLY CRAP RIGHT? We decided that since I spotted Café Beignet the night before while tromping through the Quarter that I wanted to go there and try their ever famous breakfast of coffee and beignets. We walked down the wet streets that thankfully had just been hosed down from the night before. I can only imagine what it smelled like at 4 AM down on Bourbon Street, probably a lot like Christina's mouth after her stint at the big house. Thankfully I was spared smelling that - word to the wise if you go to New Orleans be ready to often times get wafts from the sewers and or the trash cans along the street, it's not pretty and even worse when you inhale while trying to suck a frozen dream of a drink up a straw - makes for an awesome gag reflex... but I digress. We seemed to have an over all theme to our weekend of getting to a place at just the right time. When we arrived at Café Beignet there were just a few people in line and at the tables in the courtyard, which made for fast service and little waiting for our breakfast. Mike ordered the Southern Breakfast without eggs. Of course they looked at him like he had a third eye but he assured them that is what he meant. The boy hates eggs. I opted for the French Toast breakfast, mostly because in a place called Café Beignet, I saw no listing of beignets on the menu, anywhere. I was a bit tired and needed my iced coffee ASAP and didn't have what seemed to be the motor skill or verbal skills to ask the simple question if they actually served them... two seconds later while waiting for my coffee at the pick-up station I saw the chalkboard sign that read... 3 Beignets and Small Coffee for $2.79 - SON OF A B!!! I just spent $16 on a cup of iced coffee, a jug o' water [$4!!!] and my French Toast... blerg... note to self, make coffee in the hotel room and then join the living on the street, dumbass! I can't get down on the cafe for my own mistake, in the end they gave Mike extra grits with his meal and my french toast and coffee were both awesome! We left pleasantly full and ready to rock and roll... but not after another pit stop at the room for a wardrobe change.

Seriously, the weather was nothing like expected and I really wish at that point I had a weatherbug app on my phone or something I was not prepared for the heat. We switched into comfy t-shirts, jeans/shorts etc. and walked back out to enjoy the day. Shopping and sight seeing were on our list of things to do and we did those well. After picking up some gifts for family and friends we stopped at a place that we love called Pierre Maspero's not only did we get there again in the "nick of time" we actually got a great small 2 seated table right by the open door that looked out on the side street there to people watch and enjoy the slight, and much needed cool breeze that was billowing through the Quarter. Mike and I had two things on our agenda at that moment, #1 - big, cold beers and #2 - which po'boy sandwich we were going to rip into. Mike went with Catfish [but was given Crawfish], I ordered the Roast Beef Po'Boy I had last time I was there and it was just as awesome as it was the first time. Our server seemed concerned that our meal didn't come out fast enough but honestly we were on vacation and in no rush to move from our comfortable seats. It was a great meal and worth every penny, even if they did mess up Mike's order, he said it was still delicious and enjoyable.

We made a trip out to a few shops we don't have access to back home [Urban Outfitters and past Lush] and then decided to hit up the French Market Place. I didn't find anything I couldn't live without but Mike was finally able to replace his favorite sunglasses he lost this past year with a pair for $4.99 from a booth. Designer? No, they weren't but that isn't really how either of us roll anyway. We were able to sample all the great artists works outside the St. Louis Cathedral that afternoon and watch a few street performers as well. It was really the perfect relaxing afternoon I wanted while we were there.

Mike and I decided what would really hit the spot would be a mid afternoon nap so we returned to the hotel to relax. He passed right out, I tried to but just as I hit the pillow loud, thunderous base filled the air outside... the 2:00 pm parade was starting late, at around 3:30 pm. It was impossible for me to sleep, I'm not sure how Mike did it, but he did. Had our rooms been a bit lower, I might have been able to watch the parade from the window but the angle was all wrong. I contemplated running down to the lobby to catch it but figured relaxing was a better plan, even if it meant feeling like I was in high school again in the back of a friends car with a rigged system bumping extremely loud rap music.

Once napped and ready we decided to get out for a bit before dinner, we went back to the mall to find me some shorts and comfortable shoes for me, the girl who packed everything but the kitchen sink and comfortable spring clothing. Usually retail stores are early with seasonal clothing for this time of year, you see bikinis and shorts before you can even imagine taking off your Uggs or scarves... apparently New Orleans didn't get the memo. We ran in the Gap which was about the only affordable option at this mall and they had nothing in the way of shorts. Didn't they like invent preppy casual?!?! Either way I was pissed... no comfy shorts and no ballet flats that would fit my big ass feet. We went back to the shoe store where I had eyed up some Chuck Taylors. I needed comfortable, closed toe shoes - I wasn't about to wear flip flops or sandals through the nasty streets of the French Quarter at night and risk getting stepped on or walking through puddles of booze, or worse! I've wanted some Chuck's since I was in 5th grade and now at age 34... I finally got me a pair. Comfortable, semi stylish and frankly affordable. I couldn't wait to wear them the next day to tromp around the French Quarter for parades again.

Once finished with shopping we made it back to the hotel just in time to watch my first Parade!!! I was so excited. We were able to take in the entire Knights of Sparta parade that started on St. Charles where our hotel was located and continued on to Canal Street. I can't even tell you how many pounds of beads I caught just watching the parade, it was insane. If you ever get a chance to hit up Mardi Gras I have to say the parade, frozen drinks and food are my three favorite things!

After the parade was over we decided our favorite pizza joint would be the quickest and easiest thing for dinner - while I opted for 2 cheese slices, Mike got an amazing sub!!! I was jealous of his food when it came out but thankfully their pizza is a god sent so I was pleased with my choice. After eating we rushed down to The Cats Meow which is a local karaoke bar. Yes we are fools for karaoke! We love it! We quickly put in our song selection and like always got there at the perfect time. Beers were pricey... $11 for 2 brews but since you can't bring in outside drinks you are at the mercy of their prices if you want to listen or sing your heart out on stage! [Note most days it seems they have a 3 for 1 special on drinks, so that isn't too shabby!] The place was packed and I started to get a bit worried and nervous about belting out my song on stage. I always get butterflies before I sing, sure it's karaoke but I just get worried I'll look like a fool. Mike was up first and he killed AC/DC's "You Shook Me"... I was supposed to be after him but the drunken dude before Mike showed up late for his "name call" and I was actually relieved, I didn't want to follow Mike. The next kid did an alright rendition of Sir Mix A lot's "Baby Got Back" and the crowd loved it... Once he was finished there was no where to run or hide, I was on stage, and ready to rock out a little "Highway to Hell" by AC/DC. I had a blast and the crowd loved it. I felt so good when 3 different people patted me on the shoulder and told me good job on our way out. We were riding high and having a blast!

Once back on Bourbon Street, it was packed and loud. Mike and I stopped at Fat Tuesdays to get a huge frozen 190 Octane to start off our night on the street. As we walked through the crowds yet again on Bourbon Street, Mike caught a few more beads and we walked, slowly through the crowd about two blocks. I figured it was a good time to stop and put on some chapstick because my lips and mouth were so dry from my nerves of waiting to sing at the other bar. As I reached on my hip for my over the shoulder purse and pulled it forward terror struck me... every single zipper pocket on my small purse was wide open... and my biggest fear had come to light, my wallet was gone. Everything else was there, my camera, the beads I took off at the karaoke bar, my chapstick and lip gloss... all there. My wallet was no where to be found. I flipped, grabbed Mike and went down the side street as tears welled up in my eyes.  He asked "Are you sure it's gone?" I dug through the purse that really holds little at all and said, "Yes, absolutely, it's gone!" We hadn't walked more than 10 minutes through the crowd from the last bar. Mike suggested we head back to Fat Tuesdays and check to be sure I didn't leave it there. I knew I hadn't but it didn't hurt to be sure. When we left after getting drinks I remember shoving it down in the bottom of the purse and zipping it tight - and wearing the purse over the shoulder and having it rest in front of me on my hip. I guess in walking through the crowd, with one hand on Mike and one on a drink, I didn't realize that my purse may have drifted further back on my hip - a prime target for a pick-pocket! The evening before I was able to have one hand free and on my purse at all times [our drink cups from Fat Tuesdays have neck straps on them].

After no luck at Fat Tuesdays and a lot of freaking out on my part [I tossed a full drink at a trash can and said "F*CK THIS TOWN!" I was so upset, the one moment I relaxed and tried to fully enjoy myself on Bourbon in a crowd that already made me very uncomfortable, I get robbed. I didn't feel a single tug on my purse, or person, not a bump or anything. It's like a ghost robbed me. These assholes are professionals and it sucks. I wish I would have been drunk to have some excuse for being so careless, but I wasn't.

After this our night was ruined the mood went from happy go lucky night out on the town to almost the walk of shame. All the what ifs started flooding in to my brain and making it worse. The tears wouldn't stop. Walking back on the side streets to the hotel Mike and I passed three cops and I made a report. They took my information and assured me they would do all they could. I walked briskly back to the hotel, still crying, realizing that all hope for the rest of our weekend was lost, just like my credit card, ATM card, drivers license, insurance cards, the hotel key and parking stub as well as $250-300 cash! I originally thought it was more like $400, but the more I thought about all the money I spent at the mall and shopping for friends and food, it was probably less than that. Either way I felt violated and helpless and I hate that feeling. The rest of my night was spent packing my bags, calling my bank and credit card companies and crying my eyes out. What a great way to end a night, right?

There was no way we could stay for the final day and night of our vacation. Mike only had a limited amount of money in his wallet and my credit card for emergencies and possible fun purchases was gone. We checked out of the hotel and went to the parking deck to face the music of what we were sure would be a costly fee since I lost the ticket for our parking. After searching for the jeep up and down about 4 floors - remember we didn't take note of our floor. We finally found the darn thing. When we reached the window we told the woman our story and she used her CB Radio to discuss our issue with who we believed may be her boss. She came back in a few minutes and said she was so sorry we had to deal with all this and that we were free to go. We were shocked... did she just wave our 2 night stay fee AND the lost ticket free??? They did, so there IS good in the world! We got to the bottom of the ramp and there was an officer there collecting money from people for parade parking at $20 a pop. He said he heard what happened to me and was truly sorry. He gave me a bit of advice and a pep talk and his sympathy and sent us on our way with "Be safe and have a safe trip!"

Thankfully that was almost $90 that we didn't have to spend to put toward our trip home and food. What a relief. Bottom line, while I thought I was playing it safe, I really could have played it safer. I took time to empty my wallet before we left for our trip, only taking vital items like 1 credit card, 1 ATM card, Cash and ID and insurance cards. SMART! What wasn't smart is that I decided to carry ALL my cash on me at all times - I should have either taken a little at a time, or left most of it in my checking account. My rational wasn't the best but it was mine. I hate keeping track of ATM withdraws and I still do things the old school way using a checking register, for fear I'll withdraw too much and send my account into a tailspin. With no online access there would be no way for me to track this without my little register, or writing it all down - it's a chance I should have taken! I had plenty of spending money that wouldn't have made this happen to me. Hind sight is always 20/20. My fear about leaving most of my cash in the hotel is always the fear of the maid getting to my money and being dishonest. Really stupid, I know, at least there would be a way to figure out that a maid took it, vs. some strange person on the street. The other fairly stupid thing I did was carry a purse. In the end the way I originally carried it the first night was with one hand on it at all times, SMART! Had I put a less full wallet in there, or even carried just my camera and other "needs" in there I might have been OK with a wallet in my front pocket. My issue was I didn't have a small wallet and well, have you seen girls jean pockets in the front now? They are TINY! I always fear something will fall out of that! But I should have tried, or at least worn it around my neck, in my bra or in my shoe!

Bottom line - if you leave stuff out where pickpockets can get to it, they will get to it! So that's my words of wisdom to you, not just for New Orleans but any crowded street in the United States - just when you think you're being smart, or safe enough, try a bit harder. In the end no one has ever been TOO CAREFUL.

Mike and I went home a day early, pissed and disappointed... we arrived home to Angus, our cat who was over the moon to see us. He snuggled and purred all night with me, it was nice to be home after our long and disappointing end to our vacation that was supposed to be perfect and fun. The next morning we went to pick-up June from the kennel, and spent our last day off running all over town trying to get my new license, get money out of my bank account for bills and finally trying to relax.

In the end, nothing was taken out of my bank account by the thief, and no charges were made on my credit card. Other than the cash, I lost only my feeling of security, but that's the hardest thing to get back.

If you travel - please be safe, and learn from my mistake. I know I did. And don't let my story sour you on New Orleans - we went for Halloween and loved it! Mardi Gras was just too much for me, I probably won't be back unless I can sit on the balcony of a building and toss out beads. I will go back to New Orleans smarter, wiser and safer than I ever did in the past and hopefully enjoy more great meals and drinks in the French Quarter. I really wanted to share great thoughts on our final meal while there we had planned to have a nice, semi romantic dinner for our last night but as you know that didn't happen. Oh there there is always next time. I have told Mike that if we have the money, I would love to go for a short weekend in December for our birthdays that way we could celebrate in style and see the French Quarter decorated for Christmas.

I will try to post some pictures this weekend from the trip, if they actually turned out OK. I didn't take many because what I didn't mention in this post is that on the way down I started to suffer from Pink Eye or some type of eye issue - great right? [Thank goodness for CVS!!!] Let's just say I really wasn't too up for images being taken of me but I will share what I did take pictures of soon!  Pink Eye and Picked Pocket - Thanks New Orleans! Now you see why I say I felt chewed up and spit out, repeatedly!

Be safe, and keep a hand on your goods at all times people! Rules to live by!
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