Wednesday, June 22, 2016

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

NOLA Day 3

Saturday morning. Eight AM. Construction. In the building. Go figure.
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Most of the morning was spent getting some work done, but by lunchtime we were ready for some walkabout. As you might expect, the architecture of the homes in the French Quarter is worth stopping to take a look at. These are a couple of the nicest little cottages we walked past.



But, there is just about every kind of townhouse, shotgun shack, and brick building imaginable in this area, and some that just make you go "huh?" And the thing is, because this is a historic/landmark district, owners can't change any aspect of their buildings. They have to be restored to look exactly as they have for the past hundred years or so. It's strictly regulated by the city to preserve the nature of the neighborhoods. And as much of a pain in the ass as it must be for building owners, they're doing a good job of protecting what makes this area such a draw for visitors. According to our Air BnB hostess, you can't even use a different color of paint. So, you know, don't buy an ugly building.
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One of the things I like about walking is that you get to see these tiled plaques telling you the names of the streets two centuries ago. There are also tile street markers on each corner.


After a bit of wandering, we settled on Johnny White's for lunch. Actually, we were kind of almost yanked in the door by the "host" who hangs out in front passing out menus to people on the street. "I got a nice table for you on the balcony! Let's go!" And we did, indeed get a nice table right on the corner (okay, two nice tables). Despite being almost uncomfortably warm on the street, there was a nice breeze on the balcony. Which is probably why they built balconies on these old buildings.

William perusing the menu

It was nice and relaxed; the perfect opportunity for selfies.

Thomas with Aunt Faby



Me and my Honey.

The food was gooooood! I've now developed a fondness for BBQ shrimp, NO style. The sauce was deliciously sweet when you dipped the bread in it, but the shrimp themselves somehow didn't pick up the sweetness as much. Just a lovely tangy-ness. And incredibly messy! There is NO way to eat these guys without getting at least one hand covered in sauce. YUM! And just about perfect with a cold beer.

My lunch. You should have been here.

We were in a perfect place to enjoy some live rock/blues music. The bar just across the street had a live band playing (very loudly, but well), so we could hear the music without being deafened or overwhelmed. And during our lunch a parade casually passed by playing live Jazz music.

Coming...

...Going

A teenager being pointed at by a tweenager. The love/hate relationship between these two is something to behold. Though it's mostly love...


After lunch we continued our walkabout.


They could be brothers.

At Market Square we came across a magician just getting started for the day. We were his first audience. He roped us in with the line, "I'm going to start my show just as soon as I can find ten people who give a damn." He used Michael's brand new mood ring (from the Voodoo shop) to do one of the tricks.

"I'm pretty sure you'll get this back."



Michael watches his ring nervously
William has to be just about the best audience member for any act. He just can't hold back his exuberance and appreciation of a good trick. Or show of any kind.

"Oh my god! Dude!"

Even Thomas, who's been practicing card tricks, was impressed.

"Oh, yeah. I totally know how he did that. I think."

After a bit more wandering about, we returned to the house for a rest-up and fresh-up before heading out for dinner with David's entire team at Bourbon House.


Earlier this year, David's company was awarded a very significant contract expansion, going from about a quarter of his client's sites to almost 100% of them. That required bringing on additional staff, so for the first time in a decade or so David has more than just Faby working with him. Can't really see them, but from left to right are Stephanie (Cat Woman), Jason (Batman), Josh (Green Lantern, who came on about a year ago), and Faby (Wonder Woman, who's been with David for 14 years). David is Superman. They refer to themselves as The Justice League. It's a team-building thing. It works. David's team rocks.


Barrett, our drink waiter, was not invited to join The Justice League.

I have to say, this is the best restaurant we've tried so far. The service is fabulous, very attentive without being pushy, efficient but still friendly. And the food was phenomenal. David and I both had the pecan catfish with shrimp. Even the rice was amazing.

And, what is making this young man so happy? The night before, he had discovered the joy of...


...the cheese board! This kid LOVES cheese, though he's generally stuck to cheddar and parmesan. The night before at Orleans Grapevine, he ordered their cheeseboard as an appetizer and fell in love, so he wanted to try this one, which turned out to be quite a bit fancier. 

A few items were never correctly identified

Maybe the most impressive aspect of this dining experience was the food delivery. We ordered several appetizers, and some of us had salads. Instead of the waiter bringing them out in batches, there was a whole team of waitstaff who swooped in and deposited all of the pre-meal goodies all at the same time. No one had to wait for anything. Empty plates were cleared promptly; I swear there was someone whisking away finished plates every five minutes. And when it came time for the meal, whoooosh!, everything all appeared at the same time, delivered by a team. Very cool. Even when there was an improperly cooked dish, a corrected dish was delivered within minutes. And there was this milkshake with rum thingy for the adults that was absolutely to die for.

If you want a really nice, but not extravagant, dinner in NO, definitely try Bourbon House.

Me and my dining buddy

***

In case you've been wondering how all of this dining and activity has been affecting William's blood sugars, it's been pretty up and down. Mostly up. As you can imagine, most of the places we're eating at don't have nutritional fact sheets available, so it's pretty much guestimating carbs. And at the tiny carb:insulin ratio we're using (4:1), there's a huge margin for error. Add to that a lot more walking than he's used to, which lowers BG, it's kind of a "correct as you go" kind of proposition. Thankfully, that has not dampened his enjoyment of eating wonderful foods.


Friday, May 13, 2016

NOLA Day 2

Our first full day in NO was mostly work for David and I, so we didn't get out until the evening. Stephanie arrived in the afternoon, and she and Faby headed out for a Blue Man Group show. So the Bears wandered out into the French Quarter and down Bourbon Street to see what we could see (there's a lot to see). Of course, we had to stop in at the local Voodoo shop for trinkets.

Thomas, Mama, and William checking out

Eventually we wandered into the Orleans Grapevine for dinner, and sat in the lovely little courtyard.


It was one of those rare opportunities to get pictures of all of us.

Brother Bear aka Thomas

Angel/Squishy Bear aka Michael

Thunder Bear aka Willaim

Including US!

The rarely-caught-on-film Papa Bear and Mama Bear

Part of traveling to different places is trying out the local cuisine. We're pretty sure this was pickled ochre. It didn't go over very well.

"How tiny can I make this bite?"

Deciding whether or not baked clams are something one should eat, eventually William decided "yes" and actually developed a taste for them. He had two, despite describing them as "sea fat." I think the large dose of melted cheese on top helped tip the scales in the clam's favor.

"Fatty...and fishy...perfectly balanced with cheese."

And, of course, tasting new foods means also sharing new foods with everyone at the table.

One of the few times these two will share anything. Win!



Happy memories with my boys.

Possibly the best ice cream I've had in my life. Chocolate, vanilla, and coconut in a gingerbread-ish bowl!

This was definitely shared all around

And, yes, on the walk home I did take a moment to appreciate the view.

 
Definitely worth $5 for the kiss I got. And for the record, Papa Bear took the pic.










 ***

Today was the seventh anniversary of William's diagnosis with Type 1 Diabetes. It's always a rough time of year for me, particularly since it always falls within a week of (or on) Mothers Day. The past few weeks have also been difficult for William, hitting the wall with the unending maintenance required to keep him alive and healthy, the frustration of inadequate and imprecise treatment, and the reality of no cure on the horizon. I don't know if it's just coincidence he's struggling around his anniversary, or if he's experience the same type of anniversary trigger I have for the past six years. William was diagnosed while we were on vacation in Orlando, FL, so traveling at this time of year is something I was feeling some trepidation about. For whatever reason (or no reason), the date passed with no emotional upheaval for either of us. Perhaps we need to plan on a get-away to a new and interesting location for each anniversary...

Thursday, May 12, 2016

NOLA Day 1

David and his team are handling security for his client's annual shareholders meeting in New Orleans. Since it's within drive-able distance, and the team was going to rent an Air B&B as well as hotel rooms, it was a great opportunity for the family to tag along on a little working vacation. Timing turned out great, since I'd sent the final edits to Anna for her novel, and Michael has been bugging me for weeks for a little one-on-one time.

It was wheels-up by about 11:00 for the anticipated 6-7 hour trip. When your drive starts out with this view, you can't really go wrong.


Tailgating a delivery truck

Except, we did have some challenges on the way, and not just construction delays. David had a significant work bugaboo come up that kept him hands-free on the phone most of the drive. David's sister was texting because she's been having debilitating back pain. And Anna sent me the final MS for her book. I downloaded it to my tablet on the road (pretty impressive, huh?) and immediately realized it was going to need one more proofread before it could be sent to the formatter on Monday morning, so I got started on that in the car (until my battery went dead).
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But, the long drive and work distractions were worth it just to see Lake Pontchartrain.



Michael was very excited to cross one of the longest bridges in the world heading into NO. He'd learned about this series of bridges on BrainPop.



Similar to our SanFran trip, our digs in NO are a townhouse in the historic district.

Our home-away-from-home

This area also reminds me of the neighborhood where we stayed in SanFran. The architecture of these houses is similar in that many are very narrow and tall. They're similar in their decorative detail, although here there's quite a bit more wrought iron. And construction/remodeling is going on everywhere, it seems.

Faby had already gotten us check in, so we quickly got settled. For dinner we strolled around the corner to Port of Call, a tiny little eatery with a big reputation. The six of us were crammed into a table for four, but the service was good and friendly, and the food was fabulous. They only serve burgers and steaks, and there are no fries, only baked potatoes, which are definitely worth tasting. Perfect with a nice, cold beer.

Miss Faby


William: "This burger shall not defeat me, even if it does come with a baked potato!"

After dinner, Michael and I headed back to the house, while David, Faby, Thomas, and William took a walk-about through the French Quarter. Street performers were not in short supply.

William under construction.



Thomas, William, Mystery Person, and Faby

Sunday, April 10, 2016

End of an Era

We finally sold the pop-up camper (aka "Popper"). A very nice couple came all the way from Alabama to buy her and take her home. We had a lot of good times with that camper, but the boys have just gotten too big for her. I hope her new family gets as much enjoyment from her and we did, and treats her well.

Michael: "I can't believe it's going away!"

Last look at the sticker collection.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Early Start on Christmas Gifts

I'm happy to say I've gotten a fairly early start on Christmas gifts this year. At least for me.

Most years I chose the same handmade item to make for each of the special women in my life. Generally, inspiration doesn't strike until the end of November, or later, and I'm left frantically crafting throughout December in an often vain attempt to get them all finished (and some shipped) in time for Christmas.

This year I actually came up with my gift-for-all project last week. I have all of the materials purchased, and have already completed my prototype, so I'll be able to knock them out pretty quickly. Can't show you what it is yet, because that would spoil it for the recipients. But I'll show you after Christmas.



Secret Santa

My annual crafting rush also includes a Secret Santa gift for our Mom's Gift Exchange. Each November participating moms from our homeschool group draw names from a hat, and you get to make a handmade gift for the person you drew. This can be a tricky thing if you draw someone you don't know well. But there's usually one or two people you can quietly tap into for some background information (such as favorite color, desired objects, and allergies). And, of course, it has to be kept secret. At least from the recipient. There are often secret emails, text messages, and general whisperings during Park Day, often accompanied by giggling.


This is a picture of the start of this year's gift. Not tellin' what it is, but it's gonna' be fabulous. I'll post a picture of the finished gift and recipient when it's gifted. I can't wait. (giggle)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Adulting 10/26/15

Today Thomas and William practiced a little bit of adulting. While I took William and Michael into Payless for shoes, Thomas walked the short way to Target to shop for clothes.

Successful shopping expedition
After hunting about and finding the shoes and socks he wanted, William, for the first time, used his own debit card to buy his own purchases. The cashier was very patient as I walked William through the process of running his debit card through the machine, entering the PIN number, and handling his package and receipt and wallet to make way for the next customer. I don't usually think about it when I'm checking out, but there's a rhythm and flow to the checkout process, and I've got a particular routine that keeps me from being one of "those people" who hold everyone else up by being disorganized at checkout. William took his first step toward figuring out his routine today. Adulting.

Meanwhile, down at Target, Thomas selected his clothing, and checked out his purchases without adult supervision. He's had a little more practice, but this was the first time he's done his own clothes shopping all on his own. Adulting.


Teaching Kids About Money


I think most families wrestle with how to teach their kids about money -- how to earn it, how to handle it, budgeting, and all that. After some trial and error, we settled on letting the kids earn their own money based on work they do around the house and in other places. A set weekly allowance didn't seem quite right, but we still wanted them each to have their own money to manage, and have some control over how much money they earn. We rejected the idea of paying the kids in cash simply because we no longer live in a cash-and-carry economy, and I found an app called iAllowance that helps me keep track of chores and earnings. So, each of the kids basically accummulate credit that they can use when they want to purchase something. Although this system has some drawbacks (like the kids constantly asking me how much credit they have, and can they buy something using a household account, and keeping track of all the transactions), overall it works well for us.

When Thomas started working with David on handyman jobs, thus earning quite a bit more than he can earn doing household chores, I set him up with a PayPal student account, and he got his own debit card attached to his own account. This has worked great. One less kid asking how much credit he has and if he can use a household account for a purchase. Transferring funds into his account is almost instantaneous and can be done by text, which has come in handy a couple of times when he was away from home and needed emergency funds.

I'd been trying to figure out for a while how to get William set up with his own account, but it didn't seem practical with the relatively spare funds he earns doing chores. But I finally came upon the answer while talking to a friend about her kids, allowance, and the never-ending purchasing of clothes for them.

Clothing Allowance and Budgeting

One of the things my friend and I talked about was each child's unique taste in clothing, and how we ended up spending differently for each child. That was not just based on their taste, but also on their age (how quickly they grow out of things), and unique social situations (dating vs. Girl/Boy Scouts vs. theatre vs. sports, etc.). During that conversation I remembered reading about one family's solution, and it came to me how I could solve two problems at once, with an added bonus lesson thrown in.

A few days later, I sat down and looked at how much we typically spend per year on each kids' clothing, and worked out what I felt was a reasonable annual budget for clothing. I divided by twelve months, and viola, came up with a monthly clothing allowance for both Thomas and William. I talked to each of them about being in charge of their clothing purchases, explained the idea of the clothing allowance, and opened a PayPal student account for William. Now on the first of each month I transfer their clothing allowance into their respective accounts for them to manage as they see fit.

The added bonus lesson is about budgeting and planning ahead for expenditures. They get paid a set amount on the first of the month, and they decided how and when they'll spend it. Do they go get a pair of jeans or a couple of shirts this month, or save up for a few of months to get a jacket? Do they spend $60 on a cool shirt at a trendy shop so they can impress their friends, or spend the same amount at Target and get two or three shirts? Save up for several months to get a new, hip jacket, or hit the thrift store? And don't forget about socks and underwear!

Or, do they succumb to temptation and blow their entire monthly allowance on a video game?

Making Mistakes With a Safety Net

Another of our parenting philosophies has long been, "Let them make lots of mistakes while they still have the safety net of parents." Especially financial mistakes. Like making sure you have enough money in your bank account for groceries before you're in the checkout line. And keeping a reserve in your account for unforeseen expenses. And how being thrifty by habit can help you get the things you really need and/or want. And being persistent about stashing funds in a savings account. And not living on credit. All that stuff we are told we should do, but never had much practical experience with until we were out on our own. When our mistakes were with larger numbers and hurt longer.

So, that is one large aspect of our Great Parenting Experiment. How do you teach your kids about money management?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Editing::A Little Light Reading

I've had an unexpectedly synchronous lull in client work, which has allowed me to finish my marketing crash course, and send Sarah plenty of material to keep her busy building my website.

So, what am I doing with all my "free" time? In addition to polishing and perfecting the copy for my site, I've started reading a new book. Actually, studying is a bit more like it, as evidenced by the highlighter, notebook, and pen.



It's only about five hundred pages of text explaining in detail the editing process. 

File this one under the heading "Sharpening The Saw" aka "Never stop learning about your business." I'm hoping to get through the meat-and-potatoes of this volume just in time for Anna to send me the rewrite of her manuscript (estimated arrival date: November 14). Now that the development edit is done, it will be time to delve into the copyedit, and I want to be sure I'll be ready. 


Monday, October 26, 2015

Slime

This is Michael being eaten by The Goo From Outer Space.



Actually, it's just a science thing he did, using household ingredients to make green slime. He learned about it from The King of Random, one of his favorite YouTubers. This particular slime and be a bit sticky, and does follow the pull of gravity, which makes those interesting blobs that are threatening to plop onto the furniture.


It was eventually contained in a Ball jar.




Thursday, October 22, 2015

Editing::Building a Website

No, I'm not actually building a website, because I don't know the first thing about how that's done. My friend Sarah over at CodeGreer is actually building it. From scratch. Which I think is very witchcrafty of her.

But I am in charge of designing it. And deciding on the navigation (how many pages there are and how you get to them and all that). And writing all of the copy (words) for it. It's kind of an intimidating process for those of us who don't do it professionally. And that intimidation is part of the reason I've been dilly-dallying for a year. Indecision. It can kill a website before it even has a chance to be born.

Now that I have completed the Brandgasm 101 course (both the copywriting and design segments), I've finally gotten a design mock-up over to Sarah to get started. And, she's gotten started! Yay! She sent me the first screenshot of our design, and we're in the process of nailing down the 1,001 details that go into designing a website.

Landing Page (round 1)

Like fonts. I had no idea there were so many fonts to choose from. And picking JUST TWO fonts that 1) go together and 2) convey the proper "aura" of you and your business... well, it's pretty much overwhelming. But between Brandgasm 101 and Sarah's experience with websites, I think we've just about got it.

And colors. I know what colors I like. But how do you know if your visitors will like them? And, what do those colors say about you, and how will your visitors interpret them? (Again, addressed in Brandgasm 101). Turns out, the colors I liked for my site actually convey what I wanted the site to convey. Just a little tweaking and figuring out "color hierarchy" and we're good to go.

So, while Sarah is coding her little fingers off (and putting up with my endless questions and "what do you think"s and "can we try it this way"s) I'm getting down to the business of actually writing the text for each page. Daunting. Because I'm a pro at editing and proofing other people's writing. But my own writing? Ugh.

I may be scouting for beta readers to look over my website and content as it develops. It never hurts to have other eyes on a project.