No matter the fact that we haven’t blogged in about 6 months, I felt compelled to contribute a little Foto Friday gem since I actually had something to post!
Two weekends ago Keith and I decided to drive down to visit my parents in Mississippi. Dad had recently built a brand-new boat dock/house/over-the-water-structure and we thought that sounded like a perfect excuse to go visit. As we were packing up to head South, Keith asked, “Hey….will Mary-Hall be home this weekend?” I responded that I doubted it….it wasn’t a holiday and even though our parents still live only about 15 minutes apart, Mary-Hall lives about 3 hours from where we grew up. Keith was undeterred by this logic and said I needed to text her.
My phone rang almost instantly. She was driving to her parents’ house for the night last minute (and kid-free) and would love to stop by….proof that one should always always always get in touch even when it’s a long shot. Grateful to have had even only a few minutes with this amazing girl.
So here we are….proof that yes, we’re still both alive and still very much friends. 🙂 Maybe one day life will slow down enough to resume regular blog-posting. Or maybe we’ll at least be able to send you a photo every once in awhile.
– A Bandwagon Roundup –
I suppose we can thank social media for keeping us informed about what’s trending and what everyone else is doing. All these little ideas come floating into my world – try this diet! roll your jeans like this! here’s the perfect 365-day cleaning schedule! And I like to throw my own bandwagon experiments onto this blog, mainly to add my two cents to the collective knowledge. So, there are a healthy handful of bandwagons described here, and I was curious how many we’ve kept up. I did some reviewing of the blog archives, and here is the resulting status update.
1) Running. Bethany did a handful of half marathons. I did a 10K and kept up a jogging habit up for a year or so. Running/biking/racing in general is totally the exercise fad of the times, is it not? (Think of all the exercise fads! pilates, yoga, rollerblading, step aerobics, sweatin to the oldies, jazzercise. I digress.) For me, the move got in the way of my routine, and then pregnancy totally squashed my interest. The baby is now 9 months old, and I still haven’t put on any running shoes. I think about it occasionally but yeah, I probably won’t bother until the weather perks up, the hours of daylight get a little bit longer, and swimsuit season is on the horizon.
2) Bangs! Bethany’s still rocking hers. Mine are gone, but I need a haircut, big time. Jump back on? I think I’m gonna get a LOB.
3) Paleo. Bethany and Keith are still in on a casual basis, as evidenced by the numerous Paleo recipes she posts here.
4) Whole30. I tried this once (and blogged about it). I actually went for Round #2 recently and my husband even joined me. The second time, I was a little bit too lenient I guess, because I didn’t really feel all that much ‘better’ per se. I did drop a few lbs of babyweight so #winning. And in general, I think my cooking style has expanded to include more vegetables, coconut oil, and actual made-from-scratch recipes, so yeah. More #winning.
5) Oil pulling. Yuck, Bethany: how long did that last?
6) No ‘poo. Here we have our first bandwagon->lifestyle conversion!! Two years later, there is still no shampoo in my shower. This is saving us at least like $20 a year. Seriously though, my life is simpler this way, and my hair is still happier than it was in previous decades. Baking soda for me.
7) Juicing. Bethany – what is your game plan here? My take on juicing: I will continue to refuse to watch “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead”. Will not. That show must be the most compelling documentary on the planet, and I just really don’t want a juicer. Actually I like juice though. Hmm.
8) Blogging. I think blogging is going to be one of those things you look back on and go “oh wow that was so millenial.” Like how I feel about hotmail – so 90s. (Another aside: what will this particular decade go by? The Tens?) But here we are, 3 posts into our FOURTH year of twogirlsblog.
So, what am I missing here? I know a few I haven’t tried: essential oils. StitchFix. Chalkboard paint. I bet chalkboard paint is almost done by now.
A little over a year and a half ago, in effort to meet the book reading portion of her Thirty By Thirty checklist, Mary-Hall read and reviewed a book called 7:an experimental mutiny against excess by Jen Hatmaker. (Read Mary-Hall’s original blog entry by clicking here.) Coincidentally, about 3 months later my boss and I headed to a conference in Michigan where she had been hired to be one of two key-note speakers for the weekend…Jen being the other one. I, of course, made several awkward blubbering remarks about how my best friend had just read her book and said it was awesome, etc. etc. but fortunately Jen is just as super and awesome and gracious and hilarious in person as you would expect her to be from her writing, and was completely un-phased by my temporary fan-girl moment. Anyway. Before I packed up and headed out, I purchased my own copy of “7” from her product table along with another of her earlier books.
And then I put them on my bookshelf at home.
And didn’t pick up either of them for over a year.
Until two days ago.
Keith was deep into a book of his own and the house was full of the peaceful sounds of birds chirping outside (plus an occasional chicken squwak or two) and the cat purring and the hum of passers-by outside headed to eat popsicles and fancy burgers from one of the fabulous joints at the end of our street. Basically, and all around reading haven, and so I went into our library and carefully considered the many books on the shelves I’ve never read. And from the middle of the “H” author section, “7” called my name and I’m ever so glad it did.
The short synopsis of the book is that the author went on seven different “fasts,” each one a month long, focused on simplifying life for the purpose of allowing Christ to reveal areas in her life that needed re-aligning. It’s hilariously written, but the depth behind it has had me in tears on more than one occasion. It’s the kind of book that made me want to make some changes, some of which may or may not happen. Changes like going more green. I spent about 20 minutes researching the possibility of setting up a self-waterer system for my chickens that involves the water we collect in our rain barrel. (The jury is still out whether or not that is a safe thing for the chickens to drink so I’ll need to do lots more research first.) I’d love to finally try a CSA (community supported agriculture). I’m also motivated to clean out some of the like-new-condition housewares from our shed and find an organization that works with refugees instead of donating them to GoodWill or selling them on Craigslist. I’m considering instituting a personal rule with housewares and clothing that if I buy an item, I give one away. For example, if I buy a new sweater, I choose a sweater to give to a women’s shelter so that I never exceed the amount of clothing I have now. I want to try my hand at composting again. (I can already hear Keith groaning as he reads this.) While financially our spending and saving are both on the right track, I think there is more we could be doing to plan for retirement.
My brain got overloaded with ideas and so I put the book down for a minute and opened up my laptop to check my email. I had 13 new ones in the hour since I’d checked it (!) and as I checked the first one, from a marketing list I’m on, I clicked over to an Etsy shop that sold expensive, beautiful leather laptop bags. Ten minutes later, I found that I was in the midst of an internal dialogue trying to rationalize the purchase of a super cute retro style bathing suit that was “on sale” from another shop that had sent me an email. (No matter that I haven’t once this summer donned swim attire, have zero plans to go anywhere involving water for the rest of the summer, and that in addition to a few cute, relatively new-ish suits of my own, a friend recently sent me a box of almost-brand-new bathing suits that she wasn’t going to use post having given birth to twins.) I kept clicking and suddenly realized that 12 out of the 13 emails were marketing emails from stores and that I’d wasted about 45 minutes and been tempted to purchase LOTS of things that I neither needed, or should spend money on.
And then it hit me.
I didn’t have to only eat 7 foods for an entire month (an actual chapter of the book) or sell my home and live in an trailer park or anything crazy drastic. I could start small. I could unsubscribe from marking emails that do nothing but flood my inbox, steal my time, and fill me with all sorts of consumerism that really at the end of the day only led to covetous thoughts and discontent with the many many many material things I am blessed with. So I opened up my trash email folder and started unsubscribing and changing email settings. When I was finished, I believe I had unsubscribed from a grand total of 47 different emails. FORTY-SEVEN. What in the world? I was baffled at how many times a day I plug in my email address without thinking about the barrage of junk email that will ensue. The Home Depot Garden Club from when I was comparison shopping rain barrels and hoped there would be a coupon. CNNSports.com from when I was in a Final Four Bracket Challenge 5 years ago. (Five! And I’ve just been hitting “Delete” all these years!) The Red Dress Boutique from when, well, which I don’t even remember signing up for. Most of them (Papa John’s Pizza, for instance) were no-brainers to pull the plug on. A few were trickier. Anthropologie was the hardest to unsubscribe from and I even tried to rationalize not unsubscribing because I actually shop there. But I realized that I have tons of super cute clothes and I do NOT need the temptation (or the time waste) of browsing their emails daily. And on and on it went.
I know it’s not drastic or revolutionary. But I’m excited to see what this electronic purge does to my time management, satisfaction level, spending habits and online productivity. And who knows. Maybe it will be the first step in bigger things. Like a social media fast or a shed clean out. And I challenge you to figure out from what you need to unsubscribe. I think we all have something we could use less of in our lives.
I remember the first time I went to a women’s conference. I was 23 and the sister-in-law of a friend of mine had invited me. I’d told her no a few times….I didn’t really “do” women’s ministry…I thought women’s events were only for middle aged women with perfectly coiffed hair who had memorized half the Bible, prayed for others 24 hours a day, and never made any mistakes. I was a newly minted college graduate with big dreams and little direction and couldn’t imagine what I would have in common with anyone else in attendance. Plus there was that tiny issue of the admission fee. I was playing violin at churches and weddings on the weekends and working part-time as a sales clerk at a high-end children’s boutique during the week. Neither of these jobs brought in a whole lot of money and I figured paying my electric bill was more important than buying a ticket to an event. The third time I tried to decline the invitation, an “extra ticket” magically appeared and I found myself agreeing to be picked up after dinner the following Friday night.
The speaker that weekend was a young, vivacious Bible teacher named Priscilla Shirer who spoke truth to places in my soul that I didn’t even know needed it. A month or so later, the director of my church’s women’s ministry asked if I would be interested as serving as the first ever “young women’s” rep on the 25-member women’s ministry committee, to which I agreed (although to this day, I feel that I was an unlikely candidate). When Priscilla returned to our church a year or two later, I found myself leading worship for the conference instead of being the scared kid sitting in the back of the room. But when I moved to Nashville, I moved here for music and for a new town, not for anything to do with women’s ministry. I’d enjoyed my time serving on the committee but it honestly never occurred to me that it would circle back around and end up taking center stage in my life. But then the opportunity to work for Kelly Minter came along and I am so blessed to be part of seeing ladies lives impacted each day. And I’m grateful daily for those ladies that poured into me ten or so years ago.
They say that hindsight is 20/20 and as I look back to the hours I spent planning a “Bible Study Introduction Tea” and prepping for the annual women’s conference, I recognize that those experiences weren’t happenstance; they were preparing me for the tasks that I do on a daily basis at work. But never has my women’s ministry journey come into play more than this summer as I work to plan the first ever “Cultivate: A Women’s Gathering Around the Word.” It has been on Kelly’s heart for a while to create an opportunity for women to come together and study the Word and worship in a simple environment. Kelly will be teaching three sessions and our dear friend Michelle Margiotta will lead worship (Adam Moritz who produced my album will jump in on acoustic guitar and I’ll round out the trio on violin). And because Kelly loves the people of the Amazon jungle dearly, all proceeds from the event will go to benefit the work of Justice & Mercy International, the organization that I traveled to Brazil with last year.
If you are in the Nashville area, or looking for a fantastic weekend get-away with friends, I invite you to be part of this event. If you think that women’s events aren’t really your jam, I would encourage you to step out and join us anyway. Sometimes the thing you don’t think you need is EXACTLY the thing you need, and we pray you’ll feel comfortable in our simple and contemplative environment And if attending feels like a perfectly natural thing for you to do, I’d ask you to consider bringing someone else along. You may never know the impact that an invitation (and a ticket) might make on a person. And isn’t that what we’re called to do as Christians? To pour into one another? To encourage and build one another up? We know there are so many things vying for your time and attention, but we pray that you’ll choose to spend a few hours with us in August. Event information is below and you can purchase tickets HERE or by clicking on any of the event logos. If you have any questions, you can leave a comment below or email me at email@example.com
Biblically focused and stylistically simple, this will be a time to seek God’s Word, worship with an elegant trio of musicians and enjoy the warmth of community. This event features Bible Teacher Kelly Minter and worship leader Michelle Margiotta. All proceeds will support the work of Justice and Mercy International.
7:00pm-9:00pm – Friday August 15
9:00am-12:30pm – Saturday August 16
Rolling Hills Community Church ~ Franklin, TN
Tickets can be purchased online HERE, or in person at Rolling Hills Community Church or by calling their box office at (615) 861-3663. All tickets are general admission. For group ticket purchases of 10 or more, it is possible to reserve seating together. Please contact Bethany Bordeaux at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your group seating, or with any questions you may have about the event.
One of the things I most love about Nashville is the creative community and nontraditional work atmosphere that I’m surrounded by. So many people here are involved in the arts or events or some other occupation where work doesn’t mean sitting behind a desk from 8-5, which often leads to really interesting collaborations and projects.
When Keith and I got married just over four years ago, our dear friend Hannah Blanton (Hannah Elaine Photography) was an easy pick to hire as our wedding photographer. Not only is she a kind and fabulous individual, but her photos capture moments in an almost photo-journalistic way. We were thrilled with the images from our big day..all those special moments frozen forever…and my sweet friend Jessica even hired Hannah for her wedding the next year (a photo of Jess and all her bridesmaids is still the first photo that pops up when you click on Hannah’s page.)
Hannah and her husband John are often our partners in crime for everything from canoeing to improptu trips to the art museum (John was one of Keith’s roommates back in both of their bachelor days) so when she needed a shoot location (and a few “models”) Keith and I were game to offer up our backyard and gather a few friends. It wasn’t the first time that we’d had a wedding-related-backyard-dinner party: just a couple of years ago we hosted the wedding rehearsal dinner of our dear friends Bubba & Erin, so naturally we were thrilled that they could be part of this shoot! It was a sentimental nod to their big day and great to catch up. Hannah’s husband John and our good friend Keely sat in as “models” as well and the six of us had a blast sitting around our table in the backyard while Hannah snapped photos right and left.
I just thought I’d pass along some fun photos for you to enjoy…and I might have one or two more related posts up my sleeve in the coming days, so be sure to check back.
You can check out more images from the shoot on Hannah’s blog by clicking here. And check out our amazing vendors as well! They were all amazing to work with and the best at their craft. (I’m trying to come up with an excuse to hire Hayley to come make my face look pretty again.) And you don’t have to be getting married to use their services. They’d be happy to help you out with any type of party or gift needs.
Hayley Bidez Makeup Artistry – Model Hair and Makeup
Events by Elaine – Product Staging and Table Design
Caroline of Batch Nashville – Guest Party Favors
Maria & Green Bean Paper Co – Invitations, Name Cards
Mary Love & Rosemary & Finch – Floral Arrangements
The Bride Room – Girl’s dresses
Southern Events – Linen and Tableware Rentals
Frosted Affair – Cake and Cake Pops
Reuben Victor – “Peace in the Valley” Signature cocktail
My boss and I were talking just the other day about how we’d both been looking forward to the month of April; she’d purposefully taken some time off the road to work on a big writing project, which means I had time off the road as well, and we were both looking forward to some rest, relaxation, getting things done that had been put off. And now I look at the calendar and its the 24th of April for goodness sakes and I’m having trouble figuring out what happened to my “off” month.
So I thought I’d give you a quick review of some things that have gone on. Mostly to try to wade back into this blogging pool. Dip my toe in. I’ll give you some photos. Everyone loves photos, right?
First up in un-blogged-about-April-adventures was a little bluegrass fun on April 5th with my friends Andrew Greer and Kyle Buchanan. We kicked off the morning playing happy instrumentals and “country-fied” versions of the hymns I grew up on in the Southern Baptist Church…all in the front yard of speaker Patsy Clairmont for her “On The Porch With Patsy” event. It was a blast to meet such a sweet group of ladies and then close out the night with a special Hymns For Hunger concert with singer/songwriter Cindy Morgan. Being home and still playing great music all day was a gift.
Next up was a trip home to see my parents in Columbus, MS. The theoretical “purpose” of our trip was to help my parents with a garage sale to help clear out my grandmother’s house. It was a sweet time to pick through items that we knew we wanted to keep to remember her by, telling funny family stories and laughing at some of the “junk” that had for whatever reason been living in Gran’s house for so long, etc. etc. My brother and his son Drew also made it down for part of the weekend and so it was great to get to visit with them and bonus that Drew finally got to meet his “Uncle Keith.” That one’s been about 5 years coming. Mom made her famous lasagna (totally worth ditching the whole paleo thing for) and dad took us fishing. Then we also got to celebrate Palm Sunday with them which was awesome since we knew we couldn’t make it back for Easter.
Easter weekend was lovely as well. We started off the week by celebrating a Passover Seder with our dear friends the Moritzes, who are Messianic Jews. I’d never been to a Passover celebration and he did such an amazing job guiding us gentiles through such a beautiful dinner and celebration. To hear the symbolism, the history, the meaning behind how this holiday has been celebrated for literally thousands of years added a layer of richness to my faith that I doubt I would have gotten any other way. To understand that THIS was what Jesus and His disciples celebrated right before He was arrested and crucified and then subsequently rose from the grave was a powerful lens through which to view a week that we typically color with plastic grass and stuffed bunnies and as much candy as we can possibly stuff in our tummies. In a culture so far removed from the circumstances and traditions that were commonplace in the time of Christ, we miss so much of what the holiday is truly about.
The saturday before Easter, we headed to the Ryman Auditorium to catch the fourth stop on the Nickel Creek reunion tour. I’d seen their farewell tour there 8 years ago and so it was really special to be back with my husband to hear their reunion. They did not disappoint and I reveled in old favorites and new tunes all night until my toes wouldn’t stop tapping and my cheeks hurt from grinning. I neglected to take photos, but I’m not so sad about that as I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have captured the awesomeness on film.
Easter Sunday was lovely beyond measure. We headed over to our fabulous church for Sunday morning service and as a bonus had along Keith’s best friend who basically is Never. In. Town. After church, our friend Sarah cooked an “Easter Feaster” extravaganza for us and some other folks. These great girls and I have all been friends for a long time. I’ve known some of these girls for about 1 or 13 years and the rest of them for at least 6. That’s alot of year of friendship to share. Over the years we’ve all met our husbands, gotten married, and now some of the braver folk have even started having babies so our collective group of friends now boasts the addition of one boy and one girl. Baby Jude and Sweet Kara have added a whole additional level of joy and chaos to the mix and we are grateful for them. And of course, we’ve made all our husbands be friends (they didn’t really have a choice, but fortunately all love each other so it works out fine.) and they keep us all laughing with their antics.
So that’s been my April! Whew. So much for having “down time” but grateful for all the folks I’ve gotten to see this month and ready for life to crank up again next month as I hit the road again. Fear not, I have 4 posts half-written that I promise to finish and some great new recipes to send your way. One of them isn’t even healthy. Happy Spring!
As you can tell by the fact that we have an entire post category devoted to it, Mary Hall and I both love to travel. Alot. Of course, there was the epic United Kingdom trip that we took together as teenagers, but we’ve both made our way around the world and the country individually on many occasions. Since I currently work as a road manager and freelance musician, I’m on the road almost every weekend and even though my destinations aren’t always exotic, I’ve discovered that there is certainly an art to traveling no matter if you are going across town or across the world. While I know that there are plenty of folks that travel way more than I do, I thought I’d bring you what wisdom I do have to you kind folks. I hope to see you on the road.
1. Loyalty Isn’t Just For The Dogs. – The most important thing I can think of in travel is to choose a chain and stick with it. It doesn’t so much matter which brand you choose, only that you choose one! Most programs are created fairly equal, so pick whichever one is most convenient for you based on places you travel frequently. Choose what program works for you, and then stick with it. Besides earning points or miles for free travel, most programs have different tiers that provide different benefits such as free upgrades or waived luggage fees that you can qualify for based on your amount of travel, and if you travel alot, those perks can make an exhausting day a little bit better.
2. Join The Club: ALL of Them. – I know, you’re thinking, “but you just gave us this sermon on brand loyalty!” I know, I did. And I’m not being a hypocrite. See here’s the deal. Sometimes you can’t control every aspect of your travel. Maybe your boss is in charge of booking rooms or your favorite airline doesn’t fly to the airport where that big meeting is. But this doesn’t mean you have to miss out. Not only are most loyalty programs free to join with no annual fee so you can join them all with no worries, but most programs have partnerships with other programs. Simply log on to your online account and set your earning preference to earn what you want. I have about 8 hotel loyalty memberships….I’ve chosen one as my “main” hotel chain and that account is set to earn hotel points. All the other ones are set to earn airline miles on my “main” airline chain. If I only stay at a specific type of hotel once a year, it would take forever to earn a free night. But having a few extra airline miles on my favorite airline will go much further to earning a free ticket!
3. Be A Card-Carrying Promotion Hunter. – Another great way to earn free travel or perks for more comfortable travel is to get the credit card. I have a major credit card (one Visa and one AmEx) for my favorite hotel brand and favorite airline. Not only do I get bonus points on purchases made at those chains, but I get luggage and onboard discounts as well as enough bonus nights to almost have status right off the bat with my hotel card. If credit cards aren’t your thing, that’s ok. There are still lots of promotions out there that you can take advantage of that won’t affect your credit score. Many programs will send out emails advertising promotions, and if you don’t want any more traffic flooding your inbox, then you can still take advantage of most of these by just logging on to your online account and checking the “promotions” tab. Marriott for example has a particularly awesome promotion that they have been running 2 or 3 times a year called the “MegaBonus.” Just register and then for every two nights you stay within a certain period of time, you get one free night. Pretty awesome deal.
4. Attitude Is Everything: The Golden Rule Still Counts. – If you’re a frequent traveler it’s not so much a question of IF something will go wrong, it’s more like WHEN. Flights will be delayed, or cancelled. You’ll get to the rental car place only to find out that they JUST gave away that SUV you’d reserved. Your hotel room won’t be ready at check in, and when it is, you’ll quickly realize that someone smoked in the non-smoking room or that your towels aren’t exactly what you’d call clean. But here’s the thing. You’re not the first person this has happened to that day and you won’t be the last. But you can be the NICEST. Think about it. If you are a customer service rep and you have a line of angry people with messed up travel plans, and in the middle of it all, up steps a kind, even-tempered person who treats you with respect and understanding, who are you most going to want to help?
Ashamedly, I’ve not always been kind in every single situation of travel-gone wrong, so I understand that sometimes its hard to keep it together. But I’ve also noticed that the times I have been patient and kind, the folks behind the counter have, in turn, been nicer to me, and I’ve walked away having been helped, but also feeling like a decent human. Winning, all around.
5. The Only Dumb Question Is One You Don’t Ask. – Some situations are how they are, and you won’t be able to change them. But sometimes, customer service reps are able to help you out in ways you wouldn’t have thought of if you didn’t ask.Just today, this particular rule proved itself again. I’d paid for Early Bird boarding on Southwest for two people, roundtrip which totals $50….and is a fee that Southwest advertises as being “un-refundable” no matter the circumstances. However, in between the time I purchased the early bird and the actual flight, both passengers earned “A-List” status on Southwest thus getting free-early bird. So I called Southwest and asked about a refund even though I was aware of their advertised policy. And you know what? The customer service rep was super nice and told me that she couldn’t refund my $50, but she COULD send me a $50 Southwest voucher valid on any future Southwest travel and transferable to anyone I chose to use it on.
6. If At First You Don’t Succeed, Then Call, Call Again. – This one is one that I learned from watching my husband, and I’ve used it to my own advantage on a few occasions. For some reason, not all phone customer service reps will tell you the same thing. I don’t know why this is, but I know it’s true. So what do you do when the first customer service rep you get isn’t helpful or doesn’t tell you what you want to hear? You politely thank them and you hang up. And then you call back. And you repeat this until you find someone who gives you then answer you want (or realize that your request is unreasonable….you be the judge.) This usually works the best if you’re trying to change a flight or get a seat upgrade. And rule #3 totally applies here too. The nicer you are, the more likely you are to get what you want.
Happy Valentine’s Day (if that’s your thing). If its not, well I hear ya and this post is totally not Valentine’s related.
Bethany posted about a trip to New Orleans once before. Its a fabulously unique destination, so I thought I’d add a few pointers here for making a kid-friendly visit. New Orleans is a quick trip from where we live, so Mississippians tend to head down there with some regularity. Although, I personally only go about once every three years or so. There is something for everyone, depending on what kind of experience you want to have – history, architecture, gambling, 24/7 bars, jazz clubs, a dazzling variety of unbelievable restaurants. And, if you are under 5 years old, there’s actually a fair variety for the preschool set as well. Here is what we did, and what we wished we could’ve done, with our 3 year old.
1. Book a hotel with a heated pool.
The train station dropped us off right down town. Indoor pools are not very common down there, since its a generally warm climate, relatively speaking. I had to do a good bit of scouring the internet to find at least a heated outdoor pool. In Ransom’s mind, hotel = pool, end of story. I used this website to determine pool information, and good ole Orbitz to find the best price. Over night temperatures were in the low 60s and we adults fairly well froze in the pool. It was heated but not to hot tub level. Next time I think we’ll just go later in the year.
We stayed at the Bienville House, and I do recommend it. Continental breakfast included, and the people are all very nice.
2. Ride the streetcar.
Ransom LOVED the streetcar. We only got to ride it once unfortunately, from the train station to the hotel. There was some major disappointment about not getting to ride it back to the train station. We tried but it was apparently running at least 35 minutes late, and we had a actual scheduled train to catch. So we took a cab. Moral – use the streetcar for leisure travel, not necessarily when you actually have to be somewhere at a certain time. If we’d had more time, I think Ransom would have loved to just ride the trolley out to the end of the line, get off, and then ride it back again.
3. The Aquarium
This was our big planned excursion, and it was a hit with Ransom for sure. We only had two hours and we assumed that we wouldn’t have time to see everything. However, its actually not very big. Two hours is plenty of time to see everything, and since we were going preschooler speed (which is pretty fast in places like museums and zoos), we could’ve easily been out in an hour. We even made a return to the play boat section, of course. The down side is, the ticket prices are steep – $60 for the three of us. I kinda feel like something so expensive shouldn’t be viewable in two hours, know what I mean? But it did make an impression on Ransom. We’ve had lots of discussion about sharks and jelly fish ever since.
4. The Cafe du Monde
This place is a New Orleans classic, and its great for kids. You sit outdoors and all they serve are beignets which are essentially powdered donuts. (Really really good ones.) Doesn’t get much better, does it? My advice – skip the coffee. Its disgusting! Who would drink that? Okay try it once just so you can learn for yourself how disgusting the mysterious ‘chicory’ ingredient is. Gag. Order chocolate milk instead. Also, the wait line for the restaurant was a little bit long, so we went to the ‘To Go’ window. There’s a nice park right next door.
That is basically all we packed into our 17 hours in New Orleans. Our train was a whopping 5 hours late arriving in NOLA, so that kind of took a bite out of an already quick trip. We did find two kid-friendly restaurants – Daisy Duke’s Restaurant. They serve breakfast 24/7 and some typical New Orleans fare (gumbo, po boys). All was good but not life changing. But hey, this was at 9 pm on Saturday night, right by our hotel, and not a bar. So basically perfect for us. And then we also ate at Arby’s. ha.
Next time, we’ll plan a three-day weekend so that we have a little more flexibility. A few more kid friendly options that are on my list for next time:
These are probably overpriced and super touristy, but if there’s an airboat and/or an alligator involved, I know it would be a hit with our kiddo. I saw these being offered from several ‘tourist information’ stands, as well as in the hotel lobby, visitors center, etc.
The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium
I’ve heard its good. Kids love bugs. Its newer than the aquarium so it probably doesn’t have that “We built this in the 80s’ feel going on.
The City Park
We didn’t get to go here because their winter hours are kind of slim, but I’ve heard its awesome. There is a small amusement park section, a storybook garden, a train garden, and a lot of huge live oak trees. I bet you could get some fantastic instagrams of your kiddos riding the antique carousel, etc. Seriously Ransom loves all rides, from the mall food court up, so I know he’d love this. Definitely on our list for the next trip. (And you can take the streetcar to get there.)
This weekend we finally took that train ride I’d had on my “To Do” list for a couple of years. We all had a great time, and I think we’ll definitely do it again sometime. Its such an easy and relaxing experience – I highly recommend it.
We are located near the Amtrak line that runs from Chicago to New Orleans – the song-inspiring ‘City of New Orleans’ line. This train just runs once per day, in each direction, so obviously there’s not a lot of flexibility in the schedule. But, the connection times between Jackson and New Orleans are pretty decent.
On arriving at the station, the general lack of regulation is a little disconcerting to most first-time rider adults. Compared to say, air travel, its all just so relaxed. We weren’t the only ones looking around going ‘uh am I doing this right?’ ‘Where is the TSA agent?’ Ha ha. No one even checks your ID. You can bring as much liquid as you want on there. I saw a soft-sided cooler or two. They sort of generally assign seats (when the train is busy) but you can sit pretty much wherever no one else is already sitting. And you can move around as much as you want.
Besides all that, the seats are approximately 300% larger than an airplane seat. They have electrical outlets everywhere, even in the restroom. (? for shaving I guess ?) The seats recline pretty far, and when not reclined, there’s plenty of room for a kid to play in the floor.
Want a change of scenery? There’s a dining car, a snack bar, and our favorite, the observation car. You can go straight from your seat up to that observation car and sit there for the entire trip. Its sort of like a rolling lounge. The more social groups from the train were found hanging out here, as well as some couples playing dominos.
The snacks for sale are fairly pricey – in the range of $3 for a gatorade – so wise train passengers bring their own. I even saw some bringing their own alcohol, although you may need to be discreet about consuming it in public. The official rules say you can only drink your own alcohol in the sleeping cars. Still, the lack of regulation is just so luxurious.
Ransom’s favorite part was reportedly, the doors between the cars. Push that button and they open with a real ‘woosh’ so obviously a kid favorite. He fabricated several excuses to move around on the train – potty breaks, snack breaks, etc – which was pretty amusing. He would’ve gladly run up and down the train for the entire trip, but that’s actually not so fun for adults so we kept it to a minimum.
The trip from Jackson to New Orleans is scheduled for about 4 hours, although we made it in closer to 3 each time. By car the trip is more like 2.5 hours, so there is some delay. I don’t think the trains go much faster than 40 or 50mph. But they also don’t stop at red lights.
The only downside is, as with any mode of transportation I guess, there is a risk of delay. Our train was actually nearly 5 hours late leaving on Saturday. We were able to find that out first thing in the morning, so we didn’t have to sit at the station that entire time or anything. But, it did throw a wrench in an already tight trip schedule. In our case, the delay was at departure from Chicago, so it may have been weather related. Obviously a train has to deal with hundreds of miles of weather conditions, so it may be wiser to travel by train in the summer. And, I’ve also heard reports of mechanical delays that can take many hours to resolve. Its not like there are extra trains nearby that can be used in case of a breakdown, especially mid-route.
On our return, the train left right on time from New Orleans and arrived back to Jackson about 45 minutes ahead of schedule.
So, if you live near an Amtrak line, you should definitely check your options for trips. Its obviously great for kids, but it could also make for a pretty awesome ‘girls weekend’ or something like that. Next time I’ll follow up with what we actually did in our approximately 20 hours in New Orleans. Happy Monday folks!
I absolutely adore my town. Nashville has been making a bit of a splash lately as the next “it” city, even getting some attention from the Huffington Post and other media. And I love that almost every single place on their list is somewhere that I either frequently dine or, well, frequent, or it’s at least within a few miles of my house. Lots of good stuff here.
And Nashvillians don’t like to just go fun places, we like to go there in unusual ways. When I first moved to town, it wasn’t unusual to get stuck in traffic behind a hipster on a giant bicycle. Sometimes a gang of hipsters on large bicycles. Something like this:
And of course during the warmer months, lots of folks in our neighborhood zip around town on one of these. I admit, I have lots of Vespa-envy. Some day.
Also a favorite around town, the classic truck. There’s one that parks in front of my house quite frequently and I’m often tempted to leave them a note asking if they are interested in selling. I would LOVE to roll around town in a classic truck. Think:
But never….never….in my life have I witnessed anything quite as unusual as this. Well, not until last Wednesday anyway when I was driving down 10th Ave on my way from a friends house back to my house, and I passed the following:
Sorry the clip is so short, but yes….that was, infact, a man on a razor scooter being towed by a pair of huskies. Maybe he’s training for the Iditarod? Or maybe……maybe…..I honestly can’t come up with a second scenario.
Here’s to you, hipster on a scooter with huskies. May your shirts always be plaid, your records indie, and your dogs mush.