I have a cold…

And I also have a Mardi Gras parade coming up this weekend.  This is my first year as a member of the Krewe of Tucks and I’m really excited about riding in the parade this Saturday.  So, of course, I’m catching a cold.  I’m still in the “fighting it” stage, though, so I’m trying to eradicate the nasty little virus from my body.  To accomplish this, I’m ganging up on it with three different home remedies.

The first was at the suggestion of a friend of mine from high school, Laura S, who decided that I needed to swab my ears out with hydrogen peroxide.  Okay, I’m game.  If nothing else, my ears feel all nice and clean right now.  I went ahead and swabbed out my nostrils as well.  Might as well try and kill all the germs in one fell swoop.  I’m planning on doing this one every morning.

The second remedy involved honey and cinnamon.  I got one of those silly, email forwards from my mother earlier this week that claims honey and cinnamon can cure anything from the common cold, to arthritis, to acne.  Again, I’m willing to try anything right now.  I don’t have time to be sick, and with two small children, rest is pretty much a foreign concept around here.  So, I took two tablespoons of honey, two teaspoons of cinnamon and mixed them in a coffee mug of hot water.  It tasted pretty good, but I didn’t really think about the fact that cinnamon doesn’t disolve in hot water and the drink was pretty sludgy toward the bottom.  I drank it down anyway though and if nothing else, my breath is nice and cinnamon-y right now!

 

Remedy number three.  Zicam!  Okay, so it’s not really a “home” remedy, but it does have a lot of vitamins and it seemed to work this summer when we went to Sweden and I was fighting the symptoms of a cold.

Between these three things I am confident that I will DEFEAT these tiny, nasty germ invaders in my body!  Power of positive thinking, right?

So, Internetz, what tried and true remedies do you have for fighting the common cold?  I’m a pretty willing guinea pig at the moment, so fire away!

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PMA

I need to work on my PMA.  What is that, you might ask?  Well, it’s my Positive Mental Attitude.  I know it sounds like some sort of corporate catch-phrase, but the first time I heard it was actually when I was at camp in something like the 4th or 5th grade.  Anyhow, lately mine has sucked and I need to get a handle on it.  Sleep lately has been hard to achieve, Bubba hasn’t been sleeping well and Bean has been sick, so as a result, Mommy has been like a creature out of Night of the Living Dead.  I have good days, but somehow I tend to screw them up with my bad attitude and end up angry with Bean, frustrated with Bubba and just pretty much ignore Hubby.  Not good.  For the longest time I have been blaming everyone but myself.  Bean has been a brat, so of course I’m getting angry with her.  Bubba hasn’t been sleeping, so of course I’m tired and cranky.  And really, I only have so much “nurture” in me, so by the time Hubby gets home, there’s really nothing left for him.  Besides, he’s a grown man and can fend for himself.  These things are all valid, but I think I can do better.

Maybe Bean is being more of a brat because I have been more of a bitch.  Yes, I said it, I’ve been a big ol’ bitch lately!  My temper is short and I’m quick to snap at my daughter.  Why should she have a PMA if it’s not being modelled for her?  So, I’m going to try and be more pleasant to her and see where that gets me.  She’s been really whiney and cries for stupid reasons and I think maybe it’s just because she wants attention and at this point, she’ll take whatever kind of attention she can get.  Poor kid!  This one will take some work because she’s certainly learned how to push my buttons lately, but I think we can get back to our good relationship.

As far as Bubba and my lack of sleep, well, there’s not a whole lot I can do there, but last night was a great night (10 hours of sleep for him!) so I’m hoping we’re turning a corner.  But, if not, I just have to suck it up and use a little Mind Over Matter.  If I don’t mind, it won’t matter.  Right?  I know, easier said than done, but I can’t walk around cranky all the time!

So, today I am working on my PMA, which is beginning with getting my house a bit more in order.  Over the past month or so I’ve really let things go.  It’s not dirty, I have a housekeeper that takes care of that, but it is untidy, which is my job.  So, today I’m going to work on getting things together.  When my house is cluttered and disorganized, it reflects in my general sense of well-being and can make me feel like things are spiralling out of control, even if they aren’t really.  Today is a good day to start since I am more rested and feeling better, so if I can get a lot done, it will make the next time that I’m not so rested easier to deal with.  That’s the plan at least!

Today I am going to go room by room in my house and get things tidy.  Each room that I finish will be treated like a little victory in my head.  Instead of saying to myself, “damn, I have X number of rooms left to go!”, I will take joy in the fact that a new room is done!  So far today, I have gotten the kitchen cleaned and tidy.  It looks wonderful and makes me happy.  I also took down the tent that has been up in our soon-to-be  piano room (formerly the pool table room) and put away the multitudes of toys that Bean had stockpiled in there.  Then I moved on to the playroom.  Three rooms in my house are clean and organized!  How cool is that!  Plus, Bubba is down for a nap!  Maybe I’ll take a minute or two to knit….after I clean one more room!

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Play-doh Yarn

Although I know I still owe you four restaurant reviews, things have been a little crazy around here lately and I will have to beg your indulgence for a little while before I actually get to them.  I can always tell when I start getting a little stressed or feel like my world is spinning a little out of control because it starts to reflect in my dreams.  Last night it was play-doh yarn.  Apparently I was in a speed knitting competition with three other people on my team (yeah, team speed knitting, my dreams are a little kooky).  The last round was a charted lace pattern with cables and my team member who was supposed to to that round declared that she couldn’t do it, and that I would have to take over.  “No problem,” says I, I love knitting from charts, lace and cables.  She hands me her ball of yarn, which is already cast on for another project and that really annoys me since now I have to take time, rip it out, rewind the ball and cast on, but okay, I do that and get ready to cast on for the round, knowing I’m already far behind the other competitors.  Next thing I know, I look down at my hand and have a bunch of play-doh, which I’m supposed to “spin” into yarn.  Now normally, I know (in my dream) one would need to wait for the play-doh yarn to dry before trying to knit with it, but I’m in a hurry so I start knitting with it while it’s still wet and my stitches blur together as of course stitches made out of wet play-doh are wont to do.  At this point, completely frustrated, I woke up because the baby was crying and it was time to feed him.

As I was sitting in the nursery feeding Bubba (yes, we finally have a nickname, and isn’t it oh-so-Southern!), I was reflecting on this very strange dream and realized that it really reflected how I’ve been feeling in my life lately.  I’ve been spinning my wheels and working just as hard as I can, and still feel like there is so much left to do.  The play-doh is holding me back.  In additon to having a new little baby, who is a joy, but not allowing me much sleep, I have a four-year-old who requires a great deal of attention as well.  More than normal because we need to make sure she still feels valued even with the new little man in the house.  Plus, we have finally completed an addition to our home that we began back in July which has been the main contributor to my workload increasing so much.  Who knew that such a good thing could cause me such stress?  Daily I’m working on projects to set up the addition, which includes two bathrooms, a guest room, storage closet, an office for my husband, and a recreation space with a bar.   Plus, I’m trying to keep the rest of the house in order.  Each evening I put together a to-do list of the things I can think of that need to be done and work as hard as I can getting them done during the day.  That evening, I go back over the list and am usually pretty proud of what I’ve accomplished.  And then I add the new things that I’ve thought of during the day….and the list grows…

Over the past two weeks I’ve put together a ridiculous amount of furniture.  Outfitted bathrooms with all the things they need.  Set up a guest room (okay, not totally set up, I still haven’t picked the furniture I want).  I’ve been going through closets sorting out the things that can go out to the storage area.  Setting up a play room and a knitting room that I’m starting to wonder if I will ever be able to use.  Oh, and kept myself, my husband and my two kids alive, clothed and fed!  All of these are good things, all of them are blessings, so why do I feel so crazed and why am I having anxiety dreams?  I’m hoping it’s just because I am very, very tired right now.  My poor husband came upstairs last night to find me face-planted in our bed after my shower.  I really didn’t mean to go to sleep, I was still putting my pj’s on, but two hours later he found me diagonal across the bed drooling.  Maybe soon, when all the projects are done and the baby is sleeping better, I can sit back, reflect on all that’s gotten done and smile because really, my life is goodl, but for now, I’m going to sign off and start another list!  Wish me luck, I promise I won’t always be complaining like a little whiner.

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Round Six

My husband’s business is very male-oriented, so it’s rare that I have the opportunity to meet other women through his work.  Fortunately, we’ve recently developed a new working relationship with a research group that includes ladies on their staff.  Most of them are scientists and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know a few of them.  So, when presented with the opportunity to go to lunch with these ladies and an excuse to treat it like a business lunch, I jumped on it!

 

For this lunch, on December 15, C and I decided that we should bring Jodi, Darcy, and Heidi to Commander’s Palace, a New Orleans institution.  Yeah, us and half the rest of the city were there!  It was insane as we pulled up and dropped our cars off at the valet!  Once we finally managed to do that, we headed into the restaurant and I was very happy to see that we had one of the best tables, right in the middle of the main dining room.  C was at his most charming, cooing and smiling at all the girls.  It was so funny watching them react to his sweet ways and whip out their cell phones to take pictures of him over and over again!

The restaurant was bustling even though our reservation was one of the last ones of the day at 2:00.  They even had carolers roaming the dining rooms.  I was a little worried about that since C was showing signs of getting tired and I was hoping that he would be able to go to sleep, but it turned out that I needn’t have worried, because by the time the appetizers were done, he was out like a light! 

For my appetizer, I had a Duck Pot Pie which was incredible.  Unfortunately, I dove right into it and totally forgot about taking a picture.  By the time I remembered, it was long gone! I followed that up with Shrimp and Grits with a balsamic reduction.  Oh. My. Goodness.  So delicious!  It is a classic southern recipe and Commander’s Palace does it right! 

 

For my dessert, I got the warm pecan pie with ice cream and one of the other girls got the bread pudding soufflé.  The pie was wonderful and just perfect for the Christmas lunch celebration that we were having!  I was very surprised by the bread pudding soufflé.  As I’ve mentioned before, bread pudding is usually very heavy, but this dessert, well, as Jodi put it, “you can just taste the fluffy!”  I could have bathed in the warm whiskey cream sauce that came with it, but I resisted the urge.

  

Our server for this wonderful meal was excellent.  She was perfectly cheerful when Heidi and I got there and had to wait a little while for the rest of our party (not long, they were just having trouble getting a cab), and after we were done, when I decided to give C a bottle that I had brought for him, she didn’t seem like she was worried about us leaving at all, even though we were the last party in the dining room.  Really enjoyed having her as our server!

The only downturn of the experience came at the very end, after I said goodbye to the other ladies.  I kept waiting and waiting for the valet to bring my car around, only to find out that they had, in fact, lost my car!  Remember when I said it was crazy out there when we arrived?  Well, apparently they forgot to note where they had parked my car (parking is all around the neighborhood on the street).  It took nearly 40 minutes of them running around the neighborhood like mad men before they got it back to me!  Oh well, I wasn’t going to let it get to me.  I had too good of an afternoon to spoil it by getting mad!

Six bells down, four to go!

 

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Round Five

My original plan in attacking ten restaurants in three weeks (I wanted to be done before we left for Christmas) was to eat out every Monday, Wednesday and Friday while Bean was in school, but I was a bit under the weather on Friday the 10th, so I skipped it and instead waited until the following Monday (December 13) to resume the eating.  We went to Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, which has been a long-time favorite of mine and my good friend, and birthday twin, Kim, joined us.

Unfortunately, although I brought my camera with us to the restaurant, I neglected to bring the SD card for it, so I have no pictures of our food, but let me assure you, it was divine.  Yummy, yummy bovine goodness!  We both started with the Turtle Soup, which was every bit as delicious as the other restaurants’ soups and followed it up with the broiled twin filets.  I decided not to get the asparagus that came with the entrée because I didn’t know how it would affect C, but they happily substituted sautéed mushrooms for me, which were incredible.  No run of the mill button mushrooms here, it was predominantly oyster mushrooms and baby portobellos!  Again, my meat was cooked to perfect temperature and super tender; I think I could have cut it with my fork if I’d wanted to.

Dessert here is not one to be passed up, so we didn’t!  We opted to get the Coconut Cake and the Praline (pronounced prah-leen, not pray-leen) Chocolate Mousse with the plan of switching off at the halfway point.  Such a good decision!  I started with the cake, which I love and get almost every time I go there, then finished up with the chocolate mousse.  I was so stuffed by the end of the meal.  I have no idea how Kim kept up with me since she was eight months pregnant at the time with the baby squishing her stomach, but she did!

C was really tired at this restaurant too but had a lot of trouble settling down.  Fortunately, we were in a booth so I felt comfortable breastfeeding him for a little while to calm him down.  I followed that with some bouncing in the lobby and he was out like a light for the rest of the meal.  Our server was awesome, though, and even when C was at his fussiest (or was having a bit of a nosh), he never made me feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.

Half way to our goal!

My only picture from the meal, taken on my iPhone.

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Round Four

Another day, another incredible restaurant!  Man, my life is tough!  December 8 found us, joined by my good friend, Kristina, at Bourbon House.  The dining room is beautiful at this restaurant and one of my favorite features is the open oyster bar.  So very New Orleans! 

 

I also LOVE these lanterns!

 

Lunch was incredible, if a bit challenging because C was very tired and bit overstimulated.  So, basically, unless he was being held, he was going to annoy the rest of the restaurant.  So, hold him I did!  Fortunately, I’m getting pretty good at eating one-handed and I didn’t order anything that needed cutting.

For my appetizer, I began with the Duck Confit Salad.  I’m not used to eating duck cold, but this was a very tasty salad.  The spiced pecans were only okay, but the rest of it was very good.  Kris began her meal with the Caesar Salad.  (I think this is the only restaurant that I managed to remember to photograph not only my food, but my dining partner’s as well)

  

Entrees followed and I enjoyed the Pasta Bordelaise.  It was a fairly simple dish, but loaded with seafood and quite enjoyable.  Kris had two appetizers as her entrees and I think I enjoyed her choices even more than my own.  She had half a dozen oysters topped with caviar and I really loved that extra saltiness that the caviar added.  She also opted for the Escargot Casino, which was one of the best escargot dishes I have tried.  The sauce had an almost country rusticity to it with the bacon and creaminess and was absolutely delicious!  I will have to go back for that one once my dieting days are behind me!  By the way, writing up these posts while also attempting to curb my eating is not easy, I hope you appreciate them!

    

Surprisingly, I skipped dessert at this restaurant as well.  The menu looked great and thinking back, I’m even more shocked that I didn’t try one, but I think I was a bit flustered with my unhappy boy and wanted to get out of there before he got even crankier.

Overall, I was pretty happy with my experience at Bourbon House.  The food was really good, but our server wasn’t the greatest.  She would disappear for extended periods of time and was a bit slow when we did ask for things.  It wasn’t bad enough to never go back, but it was a bit disappointing that she wasn’t more on the ball.

Four bells down, six to go!

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Round Three

December 6th – C and I selected Palace Café as our next destination for Brennan’s Bash 2010.  This restaurant is located on Canal Street and definitely has the “old-school” New Orleans feel to it.    It is housed in the old Werlein’s Building, which has been a New Orleans landmark since the turn of the century. 

 

C and I were seated near the kitchen and it was a lot of fun watching the bustle back there.  One of the chef’s saw me taking photos and I let him know that I was planning on writing about my dining experiences at the Brennan’s restaurants.  Boy, was that the right thing to do!  My already excellent service kicked up a notch and I got treated like a full-fledged food writer, instead of just an aspiring food blogger.

For my appetizer Blue Cheese Salad, which was excellent.  I decided to forgo the shaved red onions, however, because I just didn’t know how they would affect C later on in the day (we are exclusively breastfeeding).  As I was finishing up my salad, the chef that I had spoken to earlier brought me out a little sampler of the three soups they had that day: Turtle Soup, Gumbo and the Soup du Jour, which for the life of me, I can’t remember what exactly it was, but it had root vegetables.  My favorite of the soups was by far the gumbo, which was loaded with seafood including some really fat oysters! 

 

By the time my entrée came along, the Creole Seasoned Petite Filet Mignon, I was already starting to feel a little bit full so I wasn’t anticipating finishing it.   Yeah, that didn’t happen!  No way was I going to waste any of the wonderful steak that was presented.  The temperature, medium rare, was perfect and the beef was so tender that it practically melted in my mouth.  The potatoes, mushrooms and blue cheese (a theme for this meal) complemented each other so beautifully.  I devoured every bite except for some of the onions, although I did sneak a couple of those in!

Okay, since clearly at this point we know that I’m completely stuffed, you may assume that once again I skipped dessert, like I did at Ralph’s.  Nope, you would be wrong!  I plunged ahead in my gluttony and ordered the Blueberry Crumble Cheesecake.  So rich and creamy!  And again, my friend, the chef, had a special little treat for me, a serving of their signature dessert, White Chocolate Bread pudding.  Both desserts were amazing, and I’m not usually a fan of bread pudding since it is so heavy.  But Palace Café’s spin on it is something to experience.  I did manage to control myself and not finish both desserts, but I did have them boxed and took them home with me! 

 

My experience at Palace was wonderful,  not just because of the food, but because of the staff.  Very often restaurant employees dread seeing infants coming into the dining room, and I can understand that, but Palace’s staff was very accomodating and welcoming of my little boy.  My waiter was super-personable and visited with me for a while entertaining me with some of the Brennan’s family history.  One of the managers and I chatted for a good while about food and our families, and another one of the servers just kept popping over my shoulder to sit and stare at my peacefully sleeping baby!  So, even though I was technically alone for my meal, I certainly didn’t feel that way.  Thumbs up, Palace Café! 

Goodness!  Reading back on this post, I cannot believe how much I ate!  I am so grateful that Hubby had dinner plans with a client that night because there is no way I wanted to cook that night!

So, three bells down!  Oh, and please note the bonus bell given to me by the very friendly manager.  It represents the entire Dickie Brennan’s Restaurant Group and their commitment to the Salvation Army.

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Round Two

Our next Brennan’s meal found C and I at Café Adelaide on December 3.  We were joined by my dear friend, Kelly (aka Beer Kelly).  The restaurant is the newest of the Brennan’s restaurants in the city and is owned by the same branch of the family that owns the famous Commander’s Palace.  Adelaide is found in the lobby of the Lowe’s hotel in downtown New Orleans and I think it kind of loses something in that.  The dining room itself is very pretty and the servers were friendly and during the lunch hours they have twenty five cent martinis, so even if it’s not my favorite of the restaurants, it certainly didn’t suck!  (For the record, I only had one martini)

Kelly and I began our lunch with a couple of Cosmopolitans and then perused the menu.  For some reason that day, not much was striking my fancy, so I decided to begin with some Turtle Soup, a dish that the Brennan’s family always does right, and followed that with Adelaide’s Spinach Salad with crabmeat added to make it more of an entrée.  Both were delicious and in spite of my initial mediocre response to the menu offerings, I was very pleased with my choices.  I was having so much fun talking to Kelly that I totally forgot about taking a picture of the soup until it was too late, but you can see that I enjoyed it! 

Kelly got a salad as well and added steak to it.  They were very generous with the steak!

An added benefit of eating a little bit lighter for the appetizer and entrée made it possible for us to indulge in dessert!  I got the Creole Cream Cheesecake.  It is delicious and they make it all in house, even down to making their own Creole cream cheese.  I didn’t care as much for the dehydrated berries they used on it, a bit too hard for my liking, but the cheesecake itself was divine.  Kelly got the White Chocolate Biscuit Pudding and we traded off desserts about halfway through.  Hers was really good, too.  It’s not something that I would normally order, but I’m really glad she did because I enjoyed it immensely!  Again, I totally forgot to take pictures of the dessert because we dove into them way to quickly! 

 C was a very good boy at the restaurant and napped through the better part of the meal (a definite plus when dining with infants).  He proved to be a very good sidekick on my gastronomic journey.

 Two Bells down – eight to go!

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Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells

As I’ve mentioned, one of the greatest parts about living in New Orleans is the food, and, one of the more fun events of the year is the holiday season at the Brennan’s Family of Restaurants.  During the month of December, the Brennan’s restaurants give out jingle bells with ribbons embossed with the restaurant name during lunchtime.  Each year, it’s kind of an informal contest among my friends to see how many of the bells we can amass.  There are ten Brennan’s restaurants in the city, nine of which participate with bells.  Anyhow, this year I decided to get all of them!

To begin my tour de gluttony, C and I dined on December 1 at Ralph’s on the Park.  The setting is beautiful with large windows overlooking the grand live oaks of City Park.  The restaurant is light and airy and seems to be favorite among the “ladies who lunch” in the city.  In fact, there were only two men there who weren’t actually working in the restaurant!

For my lunch I decided to heed the advice of my server and I selected  the oyster and artichoke soup as my starter.  It was a tad saltier than I would normally like, but still very good.  For my entrée I opted for the panko crusted panéed veal and added some lump crabmeat on top of it.  In hindsight, the crabmeat was an unnecessary addition since the veal was incredible and stood just fine on its own.  In fact, I would venture to say that it is one of the finest veal dishes I have ever had, and I’m a woman who enjoys my veal!

 

Surprisingly, by the end of the meal I was too full to even attempt to eat dessert, which is a very rare occurrence for me.  I have a bit of a sweet tooth.  But I will be revisiting the restaurant in the very near future (likely on a Sunday) and indulging myself with a piece of their chocolate mousse cheesecake!

One bell down, nine to go!

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Swedish Meatballs

This past summer, I was fortunate enough to travel with Hubby to Sweden for the wedding of our dear friends, Emma and James. I was seven months pregnant, but wasn’t going to miss the event for anything short of a medical emergency. During the trip, I discovered a great love of Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingonberries. Unfortunately, once we returned home, there was no ready supply of berries, I was unable to satisfy the cravings that were triggered by the trip.

A couple of days ago, I got a random package in the mail from my dear friend, the Naughty Monkey. It contained a jar of lingonberries and some yummy chocolates. Of course, upon receiving said package, I needed to make meatballs and immediately headed to the grocery store to procure the necessary ingredients.

I got the recipe for my meatballs from Epicurious.com and here it is:
• 1 Pound ground beef
• ¾ cup bread crumbs, soaked in ½ cup milk
• 1 egg
• 1 tsp. kosher salt
• ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 1 small onion, grated and drained
• ½ tsp ground allspice
• ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
• 4 Tbsp butter
• 1 ½ Tbsp flour
• 1 cup chicken broth
• ½ cup sour cream
• Lingonberry sauce
Combine the first 8 ingredients and form into 1 inch balls. Melt ¾ of the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat and brown the meatballs for about 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs from the skillet and drain most of the fat. Stir in the flour and remaining butter. Add the chicken broth and stir until it is thickened, about two minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the sour cream. Add the meatballs and heat for another minute or so.

I served the meatballs with Country Crock home-style mashed potatoes, green peas and the lingonberry sauce. Definitely comfort food! The meatballs turned out great and I am definitely proud of myself for expanding my cooking horizons. An added side benefit of the meal was the flood of happy memories that flooded us as we ate them. We spent the evening talking about the fun we had on the trip, the beautiful sights we saw and the incredible food we ate! I cannot wait to bring my kids back there someday!

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