Life as we know told by Heather

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thibodaux Firemen's Fair

After some down time upon our return from our morning activities, a bunch of us headed out to the Thibodaux Firemen's Fair. It's an annual fair to raise money for the fire department, since they operate on a volunteer system there. All the kids wanted to do was ride the rides. As in, after dark we had to buy them food and force them to sit down and eat because they would have been on the rides all night. Jason's parents have pictures of him on either one or both of these rides, we can't remember which. Apparently the fair has used the same ride vendor for years. Xan is all about saying hi everytime he rides by. But waiting in line is not his cup of tea. This was the cutest fair ride I've ever seen and the trucks even made realistic noises. After a few hours of rides we took the kids to meet up with family where everyone was listening to the headlining band Bag of Donuts. They were dressed like KISS but played a variety of music. The kids had lots of fun dancing, especially Jordis.

It was such a beautiful night and we had lots of fun just being with family.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Our trip to Laurel Valley

I love Laurel Valley. On my first trip to see Jason's hometown he took me to see it right away because he knew I'd like it, and I was excited for our sister-in-law, Sarah, to see it for the first time as well. Laurel Valley was originally settled in 1783 by an Acadian who was in exile from France. It's the largest surviving and functioning 19th century sugar plantation in the United States.

I've always thought that these were slave homes, but now I'm not so sure. According to information from the plantation, slaves were used for harvesting in the first half of the 1800's. Then from 1893-1926, after the plantation was purchased in a sheriff's sale, they had employees. Two of the structures still standing (country store and school) date back to 1906 and 1910, but I don't know when any of the little houses were built. Slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, so the houses would have had to been on the property years before the store and the school if they were used to house slaves. Although, I have a feeling that slavery was still going on illegally even after it was abolished, so I guess we'll never know for sure.

I always get a little introspective when I'm at Laurel Valley. For one, I'm amazed that these tiny little structures have survived for so long after all the hurricanes that have passed through. Granted, they're in horrible condition, hence the fences that have appeared in recent years to keep people from venturing inside the unstable buildings. But the fact that they're still standing makes me think that maybe it's God's way of letting us realize the plight of the people who lived there. It's a voice for them all these years later. On the other hand, I could be completely wrong and maybe that many years ago these were great houses given the time period and they were inhabited by employees who worked at the plantation in the years after slavery was abolished. Maybe I'll have to do some research to find the truth. But either way I love to walk around and imagine what life was like back in the day, and you can get some really amazing pictures here.

As the mill and outbuildings sit about a mile off the main road it's always quiet so you can hear every little movement. I'm fascinated that this house still has curtains and find it a little eerie when they blow in the breeze.

Back at the country store we took the kids inside to see some old artifacts and also walked around the property where they were allowed to check out old farm equipment.

This is me with my sister-in-law at the back of the general store.

Sugar cane

Besides being on the National Register of Historic Places, Laurel Valley has also been seen in at least ten movies, including Interview with the Vampire, A Lesson Before Dying, and Ray. We stayed as long as the kids would allow and then went to walk around St. Joseph Cemetary. I wanted Sarah to see all of the above-ground burials that aren't typical here in the midwest and Jason and his brother wanted to try and find where their cousin was laid to rest. After that we all went to Frostop for lunch. It's kid-friendly with very ordinary hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese and fries. Adults go there for the homemade rootbeer served in frosty mugs.

Then it was time for some resting before the evening rolled around.

Getting to Thibodaux

I know that fried alligator picture made you all so excited to see the rest of our trip.
The kids were bright-eyed and busy-tailed when we left home at 5:15 in the morning.

With the exception of a short nap Jordis took (short as in MAYBE 30 minutes), they stayed awake for


That would be 18 hours.

Once we got so far we were too close to stop so Jason just kept driving. Cops are good like that. And then 20 minutes out we got behind a drunk so Jason had to call the sheriff's office and they made us follow it. At any rate, it made this place look amazing once we finally got there.

Especially considering the lodging options we've had in years past. This Hampton Inn is only six months old and Jason got us the king suite so we were in the lap of luxury. It's really nice to have a lot of space when your kids need to run around. And the kids were really psyched about the continental breakfast.

Xander was so excited to go meet his great-grandma the next morning. He wanted to know if she had toys, because "grandma's are 'sposed to have toys." Luckily for us, she did.

We did some visiting, went to lunch, and then did more visiting. Later we went to dinner. The kids thought that looking through these chairs was so funny.

Jason's brother and his family arrived that afternoon so we went to see them at Uncle Keith and Aunt Sheila's. Then it was back to the hotel, as we had a big day ahead.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cajun cookin'

One of my favorite things about Louisiana is the food. A lot of it is things that you just can't find anywhere else. Or you can find them other places, but they don't taste as good as you know them to be down south.
There were a few things I didn't get pictures of, especially the appetizers Jason's uncle made. Taken apart I don't like any of the ingredients on their own (except for the bacon), but together it was an amazing treat.

And I didn't take any pictures of our breakfast fare from Rob's Donuts. We all know what donuts look like so I didn't think it was necessary, but they are truly the best donuts I've ever had.

Here are some favorites from our trip:

Cajun Potato Kitchen serves huge baked potatoes loaded with a variety of toppings. I can't even remember what mine was, I think it was steak and gravy, and Jason's was stuffed with crawfish etouffee. They're so good.

Dinner at the Half Shell was interesting. It's a local hole-in-the wall type place and all the customers seemed to know other customers. The kids also made a gentleman friend at the table next to us. This is just a crabcake sandwich, which you can get pretty much anywhere, but it's one of the best I've ever had.

We took the kids to lunch at Frostop because it served kid-friendly food. We like it for the amazing root beer served in frosty mugs.

Sarah and I had never had boudin, so a public initiation at the family cookout was set-up. This kind was synthetic so didn't have the gross casings, otherwise I don't know if I'd have tried it or not. But we thought it was tasty.

My second ever crawfish boil. This picture's a little blurry but I like it anyway. Everyone makes boiled crawfish differently with different sauces as well. I usually get pretty good at peeling it by the time I'm full. I just can't look at their beady little eyes, it creeps me out. Jason and his cousin's husband actually caught all of this crawfish for our dinner.

LaBayou is one of my favorite restaurants in the French Quarter, and it just so happens that when you ride the street car it drops you off right at the edge of Bourbon Street where the restaurant is. Jason and his brother ate here twice in three days.

Crawfish cakes with a crawfish remoulade.

Crawfish pasta had sauteed crawfish in the pasta and fried crawfish on top. The sauce was a Cajun alfredo and there was paremsan cheese on top. My sister-in-law and I shared both of these for dinner and ate every last bite.

You can't go to New Orleans without stopping at Cafe du Monde. We took the kids here for dessert. I must admit that the beignets were not the best I've ever had. They were decent, but I think they didn't hit the powdered sugar soon enough after coming out of the fryer. I was really surprised though at how much I enjoyed the frozen coffee. I really love their coffee and chicory au lait, but it was so hot that night I opted for the frozen and I'm so glad I did.

Watch Man v. Food on the Travel Channel? We saw the New Orleans episode and decided we had to eat at Mother's. This is the file gumbo. I ate the whole bowl. After a very long day in the French Quarter we got off the street car at VooDoo BBQ & Grill, a restaurant we passed every day on St. Charles Street. It was SO good. I got a platter of pulled pork and Caribbean jerk chicken with macaroni and cheese and corn pudding. The chicken was so good I gave my pulled pork to Jason before trying it. It looked good though, and they had sauces on the table for you to choose from. I think they need to get a franchise up here.

Sarah and I spent one day shopping and eating in the French Quarter and we'd been wanting to try some fried alligator, so we ate lunch at Cafe Pontalba. The beauty of the French Quarter is that all the restaurants post the menu outside, so you can find what you want before you decide where to eat. This place is right in Jackson Square across from St. Louis Cathedral and is open on two sides, so we had a great view and a fun time. The alligator was pretty tasty, too. I don't know that I'd order it again just because there's other things I'd like to try, but now that I've tasted it I wouldn't shy away from it in the future.

We also shared this crawfish fettuccine. It wasn't as good as the crawfish pasta at LaBayou, but we still liked it.
On the way back to our hotel I had to stop at NOLA and get these bourbon mashed sweet potatoes. Sarah couldn't believe I spent almost $7 for them, but it is an Emeril restaurant afterall, and you only live once, so I got them. They weren't as fantastic as I had hoped, but still good. The green onions added a nice flavor. We also stopped at The Gumbo Shop. She got some gumbo to take back to the hotel and I got bread pudding. It was really hard to find bread pudding that didn't have white chocolate in it, so I was elated when someone at the Tabasco store told me I could find it here.
Another crawfish boil, different side of the family. Also some amazing desserts this day. I think I have recreated cousin Shannon's frosting for brownies, so I'm pretty excited about that.
Thus ends the food journey (insert sad face here). I can't wait to go back and do it all again.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

We're back. Sigh.

We've been home from our trip for five days now, and going down there just made us realize how much we don't like being up here. But I suppose there's really not much we can do about it as much as we'd love to live there.

We took about 600 pictures which I've downloaded and have been trying to organize. Obviously I can't show them all here, nor would everyone want to see them all, but I thought that my first post would be some of the non-typical vacation pictures.

Sometimes my favorite pictures are the candid or in-the-moment shots, where you can't really tell where people are or what they're doing, but how they're feeling at the moment. Where the kids are concerned we tend to get better pictures of them that way as opposed to when we ask them to pose.

So that's what we'll start with today.

You'd think he was the one that had driven all day.

Love the little belly and her fascination with the weed.

Jordis always has sweet eyes for her daddy

So excited to be here!

Xander thought no one was watching him trying to take some cake.

Jason's godfather/uncle and his little girl.

Jordis shaking her groove thing with Jason

Xander takes his dancing very seriously

Nothing gets in the way of this girl and her dessert

Father and son

Hopefully the only picture I ever see of my daughter leaning up against a pole on Bourbon St.

Watching for street cars

Fish fascination

Had to put pillows between them so no one was touching the other one and Jordis' baby had to have proper accommodations as well.

Would love to know what she was looking at

Love the sunlight streaming in on my sweet boy

So curious

Jason's cousin Shawn, still crazy, ha-ha. The entrance/exit to the bounce house was way too small. Maybe because it was meant for children. Of course I have no pictures of us in there because we would never partake in such childlike behavior. Nope, not us. Or Shawn's wife. Or Jason's aunt and uncle. Nah. We didn't all get in there after every one else went home. Not us.

Jason's cousin Morgan. Our flower girl. She's in high school now. Sigh.

See, too many pictures already. Next I'll be posting my adventures with food. Yep, I take pictures of food. I'm sure you can't wait.