Our stay in Mid City and a jam-packed, 1 Day Guide to New Orleans

The month of May kept me BUSY. Ben closed on the house on the 6th, I coached a soccer tournament in Nashville that weekend, we went to two weddings, had a three day lake weekend, and spent the last weekend in New Orleans, which this blog is all about! If you’ve never been to New Orleans, there are a few things you should know right away: it gets next-level HOT in the summer, when walking around the city, you will experience a frequent waft of garbage mixed with the aroma of sweat, and you will learn very quickly that people can be anything they want to be – especially in the French Quarter.

We got in to our Airbnb late Friday night, after attending a beautiful wedding in Plaquemine. We stayed in this cute little studio apartment in MidCity, which is one of the more residential neighborhoods. I highly recommend staying here as a solo traveler or as a couple if you’re ever visiting New Orleans!

 

 

We were about 15 minutes from the French Quarter, and walking distance to several restaurants and shops. On Saturday morning we walked about 7 minutes down the street to Biscuits and Buns on Banks for some brunch. They have everything from breakfast classics to unique dishes like the Crab-cake Benedict with Chorizo sauce (pictured below) that I ordered. After eating, we asked our waiter how to use the “trolley” and he was nice enough not to make fun of us for calling it a trolley. He explained that it was an easy walking distance away, and you can buy a day pass for $2.00 and it’ll get you basically all over the city. Sweating and completely stuffed, we made our way to the Streetcar like happy little tourists.

 

 

The streetcar itself is a beast on its own. It only takes cash, first of all. Secondly, the first one we rode had no AC, and it makes several stops along the way, so if you decide to take the streetcar be sure to add about 40 full minutes to your travel time. It also gets pretty crowded, which makes it even hotter honestly than just standing outside in the sun. Also, when riding the streetcar, remember what I said about frequent aromas of sweat. This is not a good time for anyone to forget deodorant. ANYWAY, we rode the streetcar into the French Quarter area, and walked about two miles down the river and through all the shops and bars and interesting people. There are so many unique bars and pubs and restaurants in the French Quarter, offering beautiful architecture, unique food, and straight up New Orleans culture. You can stay entertained for days just taking everything in. We eventually stopped in at 801 Royal for a drink (and some air conditioning). One  thing that is really awesome about New Orleans is their open container law. We took our drinks to go, and kept on our way.

 

 

After exploring in the French Quarter, we eventually took the Streetcar back to MidCity where we both showered and changed clothes (you’ll want to do this after a few hours of walking in that kind of heat) for the sunset jazz cruise we preordered tickets for. There are a couple different options for the cruise, we rode on the Steamboat Natchez which happens to be the last remaining authentic steamboat left on the river. I decided to wear my lightweight romper and wedges on the boat, and I didn’t have time to wash and dry my hair but a few sprays of dry shampoo did the trick. We bought the day pass to ride the Streetcar, but we didn’t want to risk missing the boat so we called an Uber. We were in front of the river in no less more than 10 minutes. For dinner, we grabbed a sandwich at the food court inside the old brewery right across from the dock and boarded the boat a few minutes early, so we grabbed a cocktail and two seats on the deck railing.

 

 

The sunset cruise was my favorite thing we did on our short little trip, and even though we didn’t opt in for the dinner I think it was worth the $50. The boat docked and let us out around 9:00 pm, and we walked back into the French Quarter and onto Bourbon Street for a small taste of the night life. We wandered into 2 different bars and had a beer at both of them, and that was about as much nightlife as we wanted. In true New Orleans fashion, Ben and I had silver beads draped around our necks by a random dancing guy before we left the last bar. Sunday morning we slept in and headed back to Birmingham early. We didn’t get a chance to visit the Garden District or stroll down Magazine Street like I wanted, but that just gives us a reason to go back! New Orleans is a magical, quirky and culture-filled city with so much to offer. Next time, we’re doing the swamp tours and we definitely won’t make the mistake of referring to the streetcar as “the trolley”.

It’s the End of the Week… Check in With Your Lover! (+ Dinner details from El Barrio)

A few weeks ago, I shared a post on Instagram about how proud I was of Ben for how he was handling his busy season at work. He has been working 10-11 hour days, coming home smiling, and taking the extra mile to do sweet things like leaving me notes and cooking dinner. I had expected the opposite. I had expected that he would need me, more than ever, to be patient, understanding, selfless, etc. I was in awe!

Last night we went to dinner and hardly spoke the whole time. We went to El Barrio, which can get pretty loud and crowded, so I didn’t think much of our lack of conversation. He stepped outside a couple times to take work related calls, and I remember thinking that he must be so exhausted. I thought about all the effort he puts in, the small things he does during the week to make me smile, how he always thinks of others before himself. Again, just in awe of the person he is!

After dinner, on the walk back to the car, I asked him if he was okay. He told me that he was exhausted, and that since I had been so proud of him for handling work so well, he felt like he couldn’t show me that he was struggling. I quickly assured him that that wasn’t the case, and that I understand completely, but the more I thought about it the more I understood how he felt that way.

I thought I was showing him support and love by telling him how proud I was, but what it eventually did was make him afraid to be anything less than that version of himself. He was afraid to let me down. Everyone wants to be recognized when they exceed expectations, but we need to be told that it is okay to have a bad day, too. It makes perfect sense! I’m so thankful he was able to tell me how he really felt – it reminded me that there are always two people involved in relationships and it’s so important to check in regularly and be aware of what the other person needs, even if you think you already know. Check in with your lover this week…. you never know what you might be missing!

**** Food details: I ordered the Romaine and Lettuce salad with Shrimp (amazing!+so filling) and he had the Ceviche. My salad was so big I saved it and ate it for lunch today (still so fresh and good). I also had the strawberry margarita, which is only available during the summer months! It was more sugary than what I typically like, but overall a good seasonal drink. Luckily, even though our wait was about 25 minutes, we really missed the typical Friday night crowd. They were lined up out the door by the time we were leaving!

Classic Pimento Cheese

I’m always searching for new ways to snack in the afternoon. Sometimes the work day gets away from me and the only reason I look up at the clock is because my stomach is growling. I came across this easy pimento cheese recipe and HAD to make it. It’s a Southern staple and one of my absolute favorites – I can snack on this all week long, on celery, crackers, or on a sandwich with lettuce and tomato. The best part – it takes less than 10 minutes to make. **Personal choice: the recipe I followed called for 1 teaspoon of finely grated onion and pecans but I excluded both of those.  I also added a small sliver of cream cheese.

Things you’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 cups of mayonnaise
  • 1 bag of shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1 bag of shredded extra-sharp cheddar
  • 1 can of pimentos
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • Small sliver of cream cheese
  1. First, stir the mayonnaise, pimentos and red pepper into a medium serving bowl.
  2. Add both bags of cheese, stirring in gradually.
  3. Add a small sliver of cream cheese, a little less than 1/4. Stir everything together until blended thoroughly.
  4. Serve on crackers, celery sticks or spread over bread.

Creamy One Pan Chicken + Spinach Parmesan

This recipe is DANG good and pretty easy. It is the perfect meal to make for two with a glass of wine. ***A couple tips to make it even easier/better: Sometimes I feel like being lazy as I did the night we made this, so I bought pre-chopped onions and used a couple spoonfuls of canned minced garlic that I already had in my fridge. (This saved me roughly fifteen minutes and spared my eyes from crying about the onion) We also added mushrooms and we added 1/4 of a block of cream cheese because we are obsessed with both.

Things you’ll need:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • Salt, Pepper and Oregano (1 tsp)
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small jar of sun dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • As much spinach as your heart desires
  • Mushrooms (optional)
  • 1/4 block of cream cheese (optional, for creamier taste)

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  1. First, season the chicken breasts. Using about a teaspoon of oregano, salt and pepper, season both sides of both chickens.
  2. Place 3 tablespoons of butter into a large skillet with a dash of olive oil. Add some sun dried tomatoes. When the butter is melted, place chickens in pan.
  3. Let them cook fully, until the center is white. Once cooked, remove chicken and keep on a plate nearby.
  4. Next, make the sauce. Add 3 more tablespoons of butter, another teaspoon of oregano, onion, garlic, sun dried tomatoes, and mushrooms.
  5. Slowly add in chicken broth, heavy cream and cream cheese, letting them gradually melt in. Once the sauce has thickened, add chicken back in.
  6. Add as much spinach as you’d like. When the spinach is wilted and cooked in, the dish is ready to serve.

In 2018 God said “No” to my career dreams, and I’m thankful

Somehow, here we are again, preparing our recipes for Thanksgiving dinner and ogling at Christmas lights being strung around trees and everything else (too early, bah humbug). This time of the year always has me wondering where the weeks went, where they’re heading and what I’ve learned. I’ve been a college graduate for about 11 months now, and my eventful first year of “adulting” is coming to an end soon. I moved into my first apartment, landed a (couple) job(s), and adopted a dog. I also met someone awesome and turned in my single-gal card after a long streak of guys who were emotionally unavailable and, you guessed it, not good for me. It’s been 11 months packed full of lessons and looking myself in the mirror and seeing Gods hands all over everything. I could take this in several directions, but I want to focus on the role God has played in my career since I’ve graduated.

I started interviewing for jobs in December 2017, a few weeks before graduation. The last three years of my college career I had decided that I would pursue a career in my lifelong passion: writing. Having landed an internship with a magazine a few summers before, continued developing my portfolio by freelancing for them, and having worked for the Alabama Press Association for a year and served as their journalism intern, I felt like I had good connections and a pretty OK resume. I interviewed for an entry level editorial position with a magazine (a dream first job for me) and was devastated when I got the email saying they would not be moving forward with my application.

This was God telling me no, I couldn’t have what I wanted. I didn’t like it.

I applied for countless other media positions without any feedback. The process was draining and disheartening. I changed my resume a thousand times, new formats, new descriptions, less descriptions… I began questioning everything: Should I have changed majors? Should I have done more in college? Did I ruin the interview? Should I go back to school? Somewhere in the middle of my frantic applying and worrying – I realized I hadn’t been praying or talking to God about anything I was doing. I started to pray for guidance, and peace of mind for whatever came my way.

Somewhere along the way, I applied for a position through a recruiting agency. A few days later, I got a call from a recruiter saying that I had an interview for a marketing assistant position with an insurance company. I was thrilled. The day after Christmas, my recruiter called to tell me they were offering me the position and they wanted me to start on January 4th. I felt like my prayers had been answered – this was my big opportunity.

The next 5 months were unfulfilling and trying. I found myself undertrained, underwhelmed, and unhappy with the work I was doing. My position was essentially a support role for two graphic designers and our workload was sparse – as needed. I wasn’t skilled in graphic design, so I could only assist with the very basic tasks, which included text input, creating some graphs in PowerPoint, spell checking, number checking, etc. I was starved creatively and productively. I felt trapped, because I wanted to do something else but I didn’t have a better option yet. In August, the decision was made for me. I received a call from my recruiter telling me that my assignment was ending the first week of June. There I was, beginning the job hunt all over again.

Right away, I began to pray: “God, please guide me, whatever path you lead me down, just place me somewhere where I can use my skills to make a difference.” I prayed this simple little prayer over and over again, until my heart opened up. I had to prepare for God to lead me. I had to accept wherever He placed me.

I interviewed for a staff writer position with a local newspaper. I felt really good about the interview, he seemed to like me, and he asked to read my samples and we talked about our mutual connections from the Alabama Press Association. I had become very familiar with newspapers during my time working there, and I was excited about the possibility of writing again. It seemed promising, but still, I kept my mind and heart open to all possibilities.

In an effort to explore all opportunities possible, I applied with another recruiting agency. Soon after, I was contacted by a different agency who found my resume and wanted to interview me for a Recruiter’s Assistant position. I was interested, but focused on other options.

I continued to pray. I had a new sense of calmness this time, and I was able to think more rationally and clearly. This time was different because I had decided to let God place me somewhere, instead of holding on so tightly to my dream of working in media. After working at the insurance company, I realized I would be happy in any position where I could reach people, and do something good. I would apply to as many opportunities as possible, open up my heart and mind, and let God decide where I should be.

After two weeks of waiting, I found out I didn’t get the newspaper job. I kept moving forward.

I went on about 3 different interviews from the second agency I applied with, and I didn’t feel like any of those were my “fit”. My recruiter called me after my third interview and asked how it went. “It went well,” I said, “but this wouldn’t be my first choice. I’m waiting to hear back from a few opportunities.” She asked what they were. “Oh! You’re interested in recruiting??,” she asked, after I told her about the assistant recruiter role. “Do you want to meet with me about recruiting for us?! We’re hiring.”

I met with her the next morning, and she offered me an Executive Recruiter position. I took it – and started the next week.

Since then, I have had the privilege of getting to know the other 8 women that recruit there, and they have welcomed me in graciously. I have grown professionally, as I am continuously building relationships with top-level Executives all over Alabama. I have met so many different kinds of people, and I have had the privilege of helping them in their career journeys. I would have never guessed I would get into recruiting, but God knew the impact this company and career would have on my life: professionally, socially, and personally. I am so glad He knows and sees far more than I ever could. This job has fulfilled me and made me a better person.

It is always hard when you work for something and dream for something and then you don’t get it. I spent almost my entire college career dreaming about working for a magazine. I wanted to move to Chicago, live in a tiny, dirty apartment in the city and write. I wanted to write to reach people, to entertain, to inspire, but more than that, I wanted to write because I love it. Writing has always been a me thing. And it makes perfect sense that God would tell me no and place me in a career where my job is to serve other people. I’ve been able to get people in front of employers who wouldn’t have looked twice at their resume, because I can say more than a piece of paper can about a person. I’ve served as a beacon of hope for people when they’ve gotten laid off after 15 years of loyalty and hard work and don’t know where to turn. I’ve served as a new perspective to employers who turn away candidates for one reason or another and then end up hiring that person. I’ve bridged gaps in communication when misunderstanding and human error gets in the way of opportunity. I’ve learned so much, and I’m excited to learn more. How incredibly humbling, that God said no to my dream, and placed me in a position to help other people find theirs.

I still love writing, obviously. I started my blog in hopes that it will serve as a platform that makes admitting “me too” comfortable and freeing. I would like to write more. I would like to reach people through my words and I will always need a creative outlet. But for now, I am thankful that God said no and planted me where He needed me, and where He knew I would grow.

Whether I stay in recruiting forever or find a career in media or elsewhere, I’ll leave that up to God. He seems to know better than I do, anyway.

I Put Gouda On My Pizza But I Swear I’m Not Boujee (The perfect recipe for your next night in)

Everyone has a list of things they want to do – near the top of mine was baking a pizza homemade, from scratch. Lately I’ve been riding a wave of this JustDoIt attitude (or maybe I’ve been riding a Nike swoosh?) and it’s been awesome. I tend to overthink situations or put things off until a “better time” comes up but lately I’ve been trying to find ways to just go for it – because I think that’s what you should do, and that’s the way I want to live my life. Last week, I did this on a small scale by saying whattheheckwhynot and stopped by the store to get some flour, and my favorite pizza toppings. I turned it into a party for two and we made some pizza dough and whipped up two medium sized pizzas. ANYWAY, these leftovers + an ice cold Stella are rocking my Sunday afternoon so I thought I’d share the recipe!

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Things you’ll need:

Unbleached All Purpose Flour

Active Dry Yeast

Olive Oil

Salt

Sugar

Butter (optional)

Seasonings (optional)

Any toppings and cheese you’d like!

A mixing bowl

A cooking tray

 

To start, you’ll need to mix 2 ¼ teaspoons of active dry yeast, 3 ½ to 4 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 2 teaspoons of sugar into a bowl. Mix 1.5 cups of lukewarm water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a cup and set aside. Once the mixture in the bowl is evenly mixed, make a small hole in the center of the mixture and pour the water and olive oil into it. We also added a garlic seasoning into the dough to add flavor (highly recommend). Once all the ingredients are in the bowl, stir until the mixture is fully combined. Next, use your hands to knead the dough together, tearing it and molding it together into a ball. You want it to be smooth and not too sticky. The next part is up to you – depending on how you want the crust to bake. If you want a thin crust pizza or if you’re pressed for time (or if you just don’t want to wait for the dough to rise) you can go ahead and start adding your toppings as soon as the dough is mixed! If you want a thicker, fluffier crust, you’ll need to let the dough rise. We chose the fluffier crust, so once the dough was mixed well, we rolled it into a ball and placed it in a bowl with a hot, wet rag over the top and set it outside on the porch (the humidity in AL apparently does wonders for rising dough).

We let it rise for about an hour, and then we brought it back inside to roll it out and start adding toppings. I bought a pesto marinara sauce to spread onto the dough, and we cut up southern style smoked sausage, fresh bell peppers, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes. We used a mixture of Mozzarella and Colby Jack cheese, as well as some slices of baked gouda from the cheese & crackers appetizer we had been snacking on (highly recommend). Once the sauce and all the toppings and cheese were on the dough, we added extra cheese around the edges and folded them up to make cheesy crust, and then we buttered the edges as well (also highly recommend both). We baked the pizza for about 10 – 15 minutes on 400 degrees and it turned out perfect.

This is the perfect recipe for a date-night in or for a girls night in. For best results, share a bottle of wine and curl up to watch a movie while the dough rises. All you bakers and foodies out there – let me know your favorite pizza recipes or topping combinations! I want to know!

Taylor Swift Made Me Boy Crazy & Other Lies We Tell Ourselves (A Response to “Here’s What You Need To Realize If Your Ex Moved On Quickly”)

For as long as I can remember I’ve always believed in the kind of love that I’ve seen in movies, that I’ve seen in my parents’ marriage, and that I’ve read about in the Bible. I believe in the whole nine yards: friendship, respect, passion, compatibility, trust, agreeing on pizza toppings, and turning the tv and fan off at bedtime (lol plz).

Recently one of my besties live Snap-chatted a reading of my junior high school journal. Almost every entry began with “I was dating *insert boy I barely remember* but now I’m dating *insert another boy I don’t remember*”. We were entertained for hours and her Snapchat friends probably hate her (and me). It was silly and frivolous and I don’t know why I was so boy crazy, but then again that was around the same time Taylor Swift’s debut album came out -and if we are all honest with ourselves- it had every 14 year old girl shook. 

My boy-crazed tendencies weren’t confined to the pages of my journal – I wrote poetry and short stories centering around relationships, I watched Disney princess movies over and over, and I had extensive check lists for whatever lucky guy would be my “happy ending” (think Zac Efron, High School Musical). From a young age I had unrealistic ideas about how this was going to go down, and I wanted something that I hadn’t even begun to understand yet. But more than anything else, the scribblings in my journal are special to me, because they are some of the only things I have left of the little girl I used to be. They remind me of how much I’ve learned, and how much I still don’t know.

Despite the suggested promiscuity in my journal entries, there have only been three relationships that matured enough to carry any weight in my dating life. All three ended with the guy pursuing another girl almost immediately (on two occasions, simultaneously). I don’t know if you’ve ever been cheated on, or if you’ve ever been broken up with and then replaced almost instantly – but the feelings are pretty similar. Sadness. Betrayal. Confusion. Hurt. Anger. It’s a lot to process at one time, and fellas this is why you might remember some of your exes being “crazy” lol. Emotions are really powerful!

I read an article recently about “What You Need To Realize If Your Ex Moved On Quickly” and I want to share a few of my thoughts. The bulk of the article focuses on how people usually jump into relationships for the wrong reasons right after a breakup anyway and how, as the dumpee in this situation, you shouldn’t feel “forgotten” just yet. They haven’t forgotten about you, they’re just coping with the breakup in their own way. As comforting as this idea may be to someone recovering from a break up, I would like to offer a different outlook.

I was dumped over a text message by the guy I thought I was going to marry. We had plane tickets to California, a trip to New Orleans on the calendar, and I was going to dinner with his family the next night. None of this stopped him from sending me a text that would end our relationship. Nothing about our past, our plans, or our experiences together was going to change his mind. None of it stopped him from taking someone new on a date, only a few weeks afterward.

I had never felt as betrayed and confused in my entire life, and the truth is, I had been betrayed. I was forgotten by the person who spent so many months convincing me that I would never feel that way. I would argue that allowing yourself to believe any other version of the truth in this situation is dangerous. It doesn’t matter if he was dating someone new to “cope” or if he had really found his true soul mate – what matters is that he chose to do something he told me he would never do. He left. And not only that, but he was able to move on to someone else so soon. If he was able to do that, I finally realized that I didn’t want to know what would have happened if we had stayed together. Realizing this and taking his actions at face value is what allowed me to move on.

Relationships are weird and hard and they can get messy. I’ve learned a lot from mine and I chose to share all of this because I know that it’s something a lot of people deal with. My advice to anyone going through a break up, reading into what they’re doing, what they’ve said or who they’re with – let yourself be sad, angry, confused. Talk it out with your friends until they can’t stand it anymore. Cry until you don’t want to cry anymore. And then let their actions paint a new picture of who they are to you now, because at this point, that’s the only truth that matters.

I have no hard feelings toward that guy, or the other two guys from the relationships I mentioned. If I’m being honest, those relationships were going to end whether it happened when it did or later down the road – we weren’t right for each other and God has better plans for all of us. And also, if I’m being honest, I was boy crazy long before Taylor’s album came out.

If you (yes, YOU) ever need someone to confide in, I’m your girl.

Xx Kayla