Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dorothy Height, American Freedom Fighter

I think that it's important to remember that the fighting for our freedoms didn't all happen on foreign shores. So many of the people who gave so much of their lives to ensure and to insist upon our freedoms and our liberty never left America. They didn't have to - at so many points during our history, our own government and fellow citizens were perfectly willing to limit someones civil rights because of their skin color, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. There are still plenty of people who would still do so. Witness Arizona.

I'm tired. I'm tired of fighting. I can't be optimistic anymore. I am discouraged by Arizona's new law, by the state of Oklahoma telling doctor's that they can limit what they tell a woman about the state of her fetus' health so that she can't make an informed decision about whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. I am saddened that the governor of my state wants to put oil rigs off the beautiful Virginia coast, even after the unfolding disaster in Louisiana. I have a hard time believing that health care reform will ever really happen. I don't think that the large insurance and pharmaceutical companies are going to allow it. And I have to laugh at the moral indignation the senators are showing in the Goldman Sachs interrogations. They didn't seem to worry about all that evil profiteering and fraudulent gambling when the company was donating to their campaign chests. I wonder where my views fit in when those teabaggers seem to think that they are the only ones that count and are the only REAL Americans.

So...I'm old and tired and discouraged and cynical. And then....I think of someone like Dorothy Height. She was born in my adopted hometown of Richmond, VA in 1912 and her memorial service was today in Washington, DC, my birthplace. How much she saw, how much heartache and how much sorrow and how much joy. She was a lady to her gloved fingertips, with her signature hat and manner, but she FOUGHT! She fought for civil rights, for women's rights, for the poor and the forgotten. And she was 98 years old. What right do I have, raised solidly middle class with rights and privileges unheard and unthought of when Ms. Height was born, to be discouraged and tired and cynical? What sacrifices have I made? How can I stop trying when so many continue to try and fight and work towards a better America?

Godspeed, Dorothy.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I love to cook and I love most of the accoutrement associated with cooking. I can wander in a grocery store for hours. I love specialty food stores, but even a regular supermarket gives lots of 'scope for the imagination'. I love Sur la Table and Willams Sonoma and even the kitchenware sections of Target and Walmart. I can walk past beautiful clothing in Nordstrom's and Macy's without a qualm, but walking out of any store without purchasing something cooking oriented requires masses of self control.

Since I also love fabrics (fabric stores are difficult for me, too and I don't even do more than rudimentary sewing), aprons are especially dear to my heart. I wear them a lot - plain ones for dirty work and I have a few pretty ones that I wear when I need some protection, but not enough that the risk of ruining them is high.

This is my everyday one:

And Mr. Kim's:

I have Christmas ones. This is one that my MIL, Judy made for me:

I have one from a cooking class that I took at from chef Roberto Donna at Bebo Trattoria in Washington, DC:

And, of course, the obligatory ‘funny’ one:

Mr. Kim came through for Valentine's Day:

And this lovely was tucked into my Easter basket:

The matchless Maggie of and Best Food Writing of 2009 and her own wonderful blog "Cheap and Cheerful" (linked on the right) posted about her obsession with aprons here:
She makes the most beautiful aprons, very professionally done with gorgeous fabric. I actually saw her first one when Mr. Kim and I visited Rachel (of Lawn Tea - linked on right) and Chris. Rachel was a lucky recipient of one of Maggie's lovely efforts, an Asian themed fabric number. I felt very snazzy wearing it in Rachel's kitchen peeling asparagus and coveted it quite sinfully:

Eeeek! Please pay attention ONLY to the lovely apron and NOT to the
pudding-y arms. I wish every top I owned had 3/4-length sleeves.

Anyway, imagine my delight when I was surprised by a package at my door
last week containing THIS:

My side.

Mr. Kim's side.

A marriage apron, if you please. Already Mr. Kim is, I think, picturing himself standing at his Weber Bullet, smoking ribs and chickens!

Anyway, thank you, thank you, Miss Maggie for my wonderful gift. I don't know where you find the time to be as fabulous as you are and I'm adding you to the list (Rachel's on it, of course) of who I want to be when I grow up (I know that we are probably 'of an age', but I always feel somewhat 'unfinished' next to my accomplished and awesome friends).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Dinner

I have hardly had a chance to cook at all lately – too much drama in my life! The Child and the grandkitty are home again for awhile. Cannot go into it here, but things got unsafe (possibly) and so here I sit, surrounded by boxes and laundry and assorted Child-junk. But I am proud of the way that she has handled this situation and having her here makes Sunday dinner more meaningful. It was not a very traditional Sunday Dinner, though. Growing up Sunday Dinner was a roast – chicken or beef, with roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, Bisto gravy and Yorkshire puds, maybe. Or if I was in NC with Grandma Jean and Granddaddy, it might be fried pork chops or chicken, mashed potatoes, sliced tomatoes and biscuits. In making my own home, Sunday dinner means something different every week, since, as Mr. Kim and The Child will attest, I am loath to make the same dish very often. I thrive on variety and trying new things. I don’t really have traditional dishes. I think that this sometimes frustrates my family, because they will enjoy something that I’ve made and won’t ever find it on the table again. I’m off on another tangent! The Child has been asking for Hoisin Braised Short Ribs again since early March. Maybe next month!

Tonight started with a chopped salad with balsamic vinaigrette:

We have salads a lot, but taking the time to do a chopped salad was unusual and we really like it.

We also had shrimp quesadillas with a wonderful pineapple salsa and black beans:

The salsa was a recipe from someone at and it was a keeper (Mr. Kim would wonder why I bother to keep any recipes at all, since I never cook anything twice – I DO, of course, but not often enough for him).

But the real winner of the day was this:

That would be a World Peace cooky. It’s a Dorie Greenspan recipe and one of the best cookies we’ve ever tasted.

The weekend was crazy and stressful, but we managed to find a few moments of beauty and serenity. Here are some shots that Mr. Kim took in the azaleas outside our door:

So long to this weekend – with all the difficulties, it is still better to be home, with the folks I love.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Our NOLA Trip - 28th Wedding Anniversary Part X

Unfortunately, due to being able to post only 5 pictures per post here, I’ve had to divide up the report. And since blogs are arranged how they are, you have to go backwards. So start on “Our NOLA Trip – Part I” and go from there through “Our NOLA Trip – Part X”

After the museum, we went to Coop's for lunch. It’s a little divey place just down from Jackson Square. Mr. Kim had his first Abita - Purple Haze and liked it just fine:

The fried chicken description sounded spicy, so I opted for the 'Bayou Appetizer' - shrimp, crab claws, oysters and crawfish. Not very good. Everything was deep fried and over-battered and overcooked. The crab claws were hilarious - just the little wiggly part of the claw, pulled off, battered and deep fried. You couldn't even taste the miniscule dab of crabmeat. Mr. Kim got the fried chicken, which was NOT too spicy, after all and actually very good. It came with rabbit and sausage jambalaya and slaw. All pretty good. Unlike my husband who loves the challenge of inferno-hot peppers and sauces, I am what's called a super taster, which just means that I am EXTREMELY sensitive to spicy heat and sometimes bitterness. I wish I wasn't because it really gets in the way of my food enjoyment. But anything too spicy for me just ruins a meal. I feel real pain and then I can't taste anything after it calms down. So I was concerned about meals in NOLA. I was afraid that things would just be too spicy for me and that I would be this dork asking everyone, "Is it spicy?" ("Have you seen my stapler?") But I was pleasantly surprised. Most of the food we had was perfectly in my comfort zone. I had a bit of a problem with the shrimp and grits at Luke, but I still enjoyed it.

By then it was about time to go back to the hotel and pick up our luggage. One last time to sit in the quiet courtyard and listen to the fountain, take a few final pictures and say goodbye to New Orleans:

We had an amazing time and found yet another place to remember and love and come back to.

I am so glad that my Mr. Kim suggested this trip to celebrate our anniversary. It was exactly what an anniversary trip should be: romantic, with beautiful surroundings and lots of together time. I can't say enough that I have the best husband.

Mr. Kim: Had it not been for all of Kim’s inquiries and solo research, this trip would have been much less rich. Surely we would have missed most of the restaurants and would have complete missed City Park and Magazine Street, since the totality of my planning was get us there and remember to see the French Quarter. I am so glad to have an imaginative and fun-seeking wife. I can’t say enough how lucky I am to have married my best friend.

Kim, again: See what I mean about him? How in the world did I rate such a man?

Our NOLA Trip - 28th Wedding Anniversary Part IX

Unfortunately, due to being able to post only 5 pictures per post here, I’ve had to divide up the report. And since blogs are arranged how they are, you have to go backwards. So start on “Our NOLA Trip – Part I” and go from there through “Our NOLA Trip – Part X”

Tuesday, March 23 Last Day
Our flight was at 5:53 pm, so we had to be at the airport at 4pm. My lack of attention to details meant that I kind of messed things up today. It was supposed to be pastries from Croissant D'Or eaten on the levee beside the Mississippi. Then either the Presbytere (Mardi Gras museum) or the Ferry to Algiers Point and maybe Mardi Gras world, if there was time. Then a cab to Willie Mae's for chicken, back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and then another cab to the airport at 3:30. The other Willie Mae's option was to take all our luggage (one big bag and 3 smaller ones) into the restaurant and then we'd have to arrive at the airport way too early. It was just much too complicated and awkward for a plate of chicken - no matter how heavenly. We decided that we'd plan better next time and just do fried chicken at "Coop's", recommended by the fellow at the hotel.

So, this figured out, we showered, dressed, said goodbye to our room, checked our luggage with the front desk and set off. Croissant D'Or is closed on Tuesdays. Ok, how random is THAT? So is the Parkway. The Botanical Gardens are closed on Mondays. So is Elizabeth's - which IS open for breakfast today - at 11AM! Sheesh. So we wandered around a bit. And ended up back at Stanley for a good, but exceedingly long in coming, meal. Mr. Kim had a very good Rueben and onion rings (Any obviously diner food falls into the 'breakfast of champions' category) and I had the classic - scrambled eggs, whole wheat toast, bacon and potatoes.

Another example of my mismanagement was leaving until the last day the procurement of office treats, our souvenir (usually something that we can use as a Christmas ornament) and our candy and pralines. So we raced around getting those things (found a lovely glass fleur de lis for the tree) and took a chance and peeked into St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square to see if it would be open for a look-in:

The Big Book very much pooh-poohs St. Louis - calls it "ugly" and "grim", in fact. But we thought it was lovely. A beautiful example of French architecture and the oldest continuously active cathedral in the US. The current building was dedicated in 1794 and became a minor basilica in 1964. The original building was destroyed by a hurricane in 1722. On Good Friday in 1788 a fire started in the French Quarter. Since it was Good Friday and a solemn holy day, the priest refused to ring the church bells to sound the alarm, as they usually did in case of fire. The fire went out of control and proceeded to burn down 850 buildings. Including the cathedral. OK, no smirking. The day before we took lots of pictures at St. Alphonsus and St. Mary's. They are being worked on and the priest said that we were welcome to take pictures. At St. Louis there were people worshipping (not a mass, just individuals in prayer), so we didn't take any pictures - though others did - flash, too! Unfortunately the gift shop doesn't stock any postcards, only a too-expensive book.

Just next door to the Cathedral is the Presbytere, a very official looking building that was built as housing for clergy, but never used for that. It's part of the Louisiana State Museum and houses the Mardi Gras museum:

Just a really beautiful, amazing collection. Very well put together and interesting. Lots of photos, jewelry, costumes, costume drawings, etc. I especially loved this fellow. He looks like my favorite sort of Halloween decorations:

My favorite part was the display of ephemera - invitations, dance cards, menus, all very elaborate and beautifully decorated. I could have looked at them for hours.

Our NOLA Trip - 28th Wedding Anniversary Part VIII

Unfortunately, due to being able to post only 5 pictures per post here, I’ve had to divide up the report. And since blogs are arranged how they are, you have to go backwards. So start on “Our NOLA Trip – Part I” and go from there through “Our NOLA Trip – Part X”

We veered off at one point to see two churches that I'd read about in the Big Book (sounds so AA - which I imagine does as well in NOLA as GA does in Vegas - feast or famine, likely). The churches are St. Mary's Assumption and St. Alphonsus. They are Roman Catholic churches right across the street from each other. St. Alphonsus was built in 1855 and St. Mary's in 1860. St. A's congregation was Irish and St. M's German and they just didn't want to worship together, so they built two gorgeous churches. St. Alphonsus is just breathtakingly beautiful and in the midst of much needed restoration and repair - long term damage and mistakes (painting over the gold leaf on the huge, gorgeous columns, for example) plus Katrina. This church is full of light. It is really comparable to some of the churches in Europe that I've seen pictures of:

The entire ceiling is covered with lovely frescos. Lot's of gilding around and some of the special areas are surrounded by those lights that resemble dressing room mirror lights. That was a little odd. One of the frescos so lit was of Jesus, who I immediately dubbed "Jazz Hands Jesus":

No, lightning didn't strike; why do you ask?

St. Mary's is only less beautiful by comparison with St. Alphonsus:

A lovely church with a bizarre little chapel full of reliquary objects and Father Francis Seelo's coffin. Fr. Seelo was the hero of the 1867 yellow fever epidemic and was beatified in 2000. St. M's is the national shrine for him.

From here we walked back up to Magazine Street - a shopping area that goes through the Garden District. We were tired and thirsty, so we stopped in at Juan's Flying Burrito for a drink. We decided we were a little nommy, so we ordered chips and (very good) house made salsa and a couple of beef tacos. We finished our Garden District walking tour including Archie Manning's house (we sent a picture to The Child, who loves Peyton even more than she loves John Besh), John Goodman's house, Commander's Palace and the Lafayette Cemetery. We looped back down to Magazine Street and wandered around some. We went to Sucre, an amazing candy/dessert/gelato shop. We got some lovely chocolates and macarons to take home (The Child is obsessed with macarons) and I tasted some fantastic gelato. We stopped in at La Davinia Gelateria for a cup of Thai gelato - lime, coconut and pandan leaf. It was good, but not as good as the one I'd tasted at Sucre.

I really planned this day badly. The place that I wanted to go for breakfast - Elizabeth's (famous for praline bacon) - doesn't open on Mondays. And we should have done Magazine Street early and then done the walking tour of the Garden District after lunch because so many of the places we would have liked to go into were closed or closing up. But it was fun to window shop. Walked back up to St. Charles and took the streetcar back to Canal and walked to the hotel. We had a little bit of a rest and then taxied to Cochon for dinner.

Let me start by saying that before even walking into the place it had a bit of a black mark against it. I had it as dinner for Monday night on our itinerary, but Mr. Kim thought that he might have made the reservation for Sunday. And he thought that it was for 8pm, but wasn't absolutely positive. So we called numerous times and got nothing but voicemail - we left two messages requesting a call back to confirm, but never got a call. They need to hire a couple of these unemployed folks at minimum wage and have them answer phones or at least return calls. So we were right on the edge of being pissed. Not to mention how the raves about this place at eGullet had set them up. They needed to wow us. Reader, they did. EVERY SINGLE THING was delicious. The servers were all young and friendly and seemingly really excited about what they were serving. We started with cocktails (our usual unsweet tea with extra lemon kinda fell by the wayside in NOLA). Mr. Kim had George T. Stagg bourbon and ginger and I had a Marchac Sunrise - Dos Lunas silver tequila, macerated strawberries and ginger beer - VERY refreshing.

Mr. Kim: I had never heard of most of the brands of bourbon before that were being offered, so I just picked a moderately priced one and ordered. Stagg is deep and oaky and smooth. The bartender walked up for a status check about 2 minutes after serving and as a parting statement said yes, he likes Stagg too, and that you’d never know it was 147 proof. Quick math, 73.5 % alcohol, two or three shots in the glass….. Three minutes later, I had to differ – I could definitely tell it was high test. My attitude was getting better by the second.

We started with fried rabbit livers w/ pepper jelly and toasts, deep fried boudin balls w/ whole grain mustard and pickled peppers, a Boucherie plate w/ assorted meats, pickles and pork rillette (must figure out how to make this stuff - between Mr. Kim's new smoking skills and eGullet and Cookskorner, I know I can do it). I was sad that they didn't have the fried pork ears on the menu anymore. What??? Seriously, I was! Everyone at eGullet made them sound so good. Oh, go on then, Mr. Kim looked at me the same way.

It was all just crazy crazy good. Mr. Kim liked the boudin balls best of all and I could have eaten those livers for hours. For his main course, Mr. Kim had the Louisiana Cochon w/ turnips, cabbage & cracklins. Basically a pork 'cake' (as in crab cake) of tender, smoky gorgeous pulled pork w/ tender cabbage, turnips and apple chunks and a curly pigtail of cracklins on top - heavenly good. I had the oyster BLT with the bacon being house made. Oh My Goodness. This was fantastic. I eschewed most of the (very good) bread so I could eat more oysters and bacon. Even the tomatoes were good. For dessert Mr. Kim settled for a good cup of coffee to fight food-induced sleep and I had the Ponchatoula strawberry shortcake (I just realized that I had a strawberry dessert at Luke, too - I must be ready for spring). The strawberries were fine - from Florida, I guess. But the shortcake was perfect. Exactly what shortcake biscuits should be. Tender, flaky and crispy edges. They had almost a glazed effect. I'd love to know how these were done. I said that Cochon needed to wow us. They certainly did - but not in any over-the-top, showy way. This food was miles better than any food we can get in Richmond - but it is completely approachable and comfortable. It's affordable, too. We ordered much more food than we would normally order in a restaurant at home, including 2 cocktails and dessert and the bill including a 20%+ tip was $145. If we had access to a place like Cochon all the time, I'd guess that a normal meal would be somewhere around $50 - easily within range of a weekly visit. After dinner we walked back to our hotel and packed and crashed hard.

Our NOLA Trip - 28th Wedding Anniversary Part VII

Unfortunately, due to being able to post only 5 pictures per post here, I’ve had to divide up the report. And since blogs are arranged how they are, you have to go backwards. So start on “Our NOLA Trip – Part I” and go from there through “Our NOLA Trip – Part X”

In the French Quarter everything is jumbled up - homes beside restaurants beside hotels. The Garden District is much more segregated (probably in more ways than one, unfortunately) - there were blocks that we walked that were nothing but big, beautiful homes. I would take a picture of one house, saying it was so lovely:

Then a couple of houses down there would be another one, just as gorgeous:

Not all the houses are huge mansions:

This one was typical, too. Tiny, but charming.

Our NOLA Trip - 28th Wedding Anniversary Part VI

Unfortunately, due to being able to post only 5 pictures per post here, I’ve had to divide up the report. And since blogs are arranged how they are, you have to go backwards. So start on “Our NOLA Trip – Part I” and go from there through “Our NOLA Trip – Part X”

We saw a bit of the sculpture garden as we passed the art museum. We were too tired and hungry to really stop - but it looked a little too modern for our tastes, anyway. Mike: It wasn’t art.

We walked through the park (it is freaking HUGE) down the Bayou St. John through Mid City. Wonderful big and little houses. Little side streets beckoned and made me wish for a bike or a car, or better feet, at least. It was getting colder and colder and unbelievably windy by the time we reached the Parkway Bakery and Tavern:

Great little place that looks very much a neighborhood joint. And it smells fantastic. We grabbed a table on the enclosed patio area and Mr. Kim went to order. We ordered way too much food, as I knew we would. We (ok, I) have a tendency to do that anyway, but we had specific recommendations that we needed to check out! Through a failure of communication (on my part - I think my ears were still frozen) we ended up with both chili cheese fries and gravy cheese fries. Mr. Kim got the Surf 'n Turf Po'boy - fall-apart tender beef, fried shrimp and loads of gravy. Weird, right? Beef and shrimp? Sounds like some kind of ersatz Chinese combo. But it works really well! I can't say why, it just does. Maybe it’s the beef gravy, which would make the proverbial shoe taste good. Amazing stuff. The beef is more like a pot roast and really flavorful. The sandwich fell apart before he could get it unwrapped. This was basically a stew sandwich. No matter - it was fantastic: gloppy, gooey, salty goodness. I got the 'Peacemaker' Po'boy - fried oysters and shrimp. I've had better oysters, but that's quibbling - these were still very good and the combo was perfect. Mr. Kim ended up being glad that we got the chili cheese fries because the gravy on the others was basically what was on his sandwich. The chili was actually pretty good. But the fries and gravy was awesome - I probably ate more of these than anything else.

We walked back to Canal Street and caught the streetcar back to the Quarter. Went back to the hotel for a little rest. The plan was to go to Acme for chargrilled oysters, but we just didn't feel like more rich food. We napped a little, talked to The Child and wandered around Bourbon Street ending up, by total chance at Maison Bourbon - a jazz bar - and listened to a couple of sets by Jamil Sharif and his jazz band. A couple of drinks, pretty good music and an authentic feeling bar. We could listen to the music in the bar, but still hear the folks on the street and some other music coming from nearby places. We shared a gigantic and really good hot dog from one of the ubiquitous Lucky Dog street vendors (oddly, the only street vendors that we noticed in NOLA except for the artists and palm readers at Jackson Square).

Dessert was a visit to the Cafe du Monde where we shared an order of beignets. I had some really good, rich hot chocolate (it was still really cold). We were serenaded by a busker with a nice, mellow voice. He did my favorite hymn: Amazing Grace. Just a perfect NOLA night.

Monday, March 22 - Mostly Garden District
We caught the St. Charles streetcar out to the Camellia Grill for breakfast. What a cheap treat that ride is! It's like a bus tour - St. Charles is a beautiful street.

I liked the juxtaposition of signs on this cute little house:

Tattoos and law offices. How very New Orleans.

St. Charles is a broad avenue lined with bead-festooned trees and gracious homes, not to mention Loyola New Orleans, Audubon Park and shops and restaurants. At $1.25 per ride, this is a great deal (yesterday's ride up Canal was not as scenic). The Camellia Grill is a bustling place. All counter seating with smart talking countermen dressed in white and black like waiters in a fine restaurant. Our waiter was named "Sleepy" and he was a BLUR:

We shared a wonderful, crisp pecan waffle - big chunks of roasted pecans that actually tasted of pecans instead of just being some anonymous crunchy bits, like most I've had in the past. It would have been even better with real butter instead of the pitcher of ersatz they bring you. But I'm really just being picky here - this was a seriously good waffle. Mr. Kim had a huge sausage and jalapeño omelet and thick, creamy grits. The omelet was amazing - browned on the outside and high and fluffy on the inside. They cooked it on a griddle and roll it. The eggs are whizzed up with a milkshake machine in a steel cup and poured out on the griddle. I had 2 over-mediums, link sausage (really good) and great hash browns.

I was hoping to have a Sno-Ball this trip, but we are apparently out of season for everyone's favorite Hansens. So when I read somewhere that there was one just blocks from the Camellia on Oak St., I was very excited. We walked up and found the shop, but it was closed up tight with no hours sign in the window (a feature missing from many NOLA businesses). Disgruntled and grumbling, we caught the streetcar again back to the start of the Garden District walking tour:

The first stop was "The Rink" on Prytania St. containing the Garden District Book Store and a potty. I was happy again. As much as I loved the French Quarter, the Garden District is really my kind of neighborhood. Unlike the very urban (if OLD) French Quarter with it's houses right on the street, snugged up against each other and secret courtyards hidden within, the Garden District is big houses, on much larger properties. Lots of large porches and lovely wrought iron fences. We even saw a fence that was fashioned to look like stalks of corn:

Our NOLA Trip - 28th Wedding Anniversary Part V

Unfortunately, due to being able to post only 5 pictures per post here, I’ve had to divide up the report. And since blogs are arranged how they are, you have to go backwards. So start on “Our NOLA Trip – Part I” and go from there through “Our NOLA Trip – Part X”

We walked from there to City Park (with a MUCH needed potty break at Burger King - long live the KING!). What a fantastic place! (The park of course….. the Burger King was only so-so.) We only saw a small portion of it – it is the fifth largest public park in the country -- and were so impressed. It was very much damaged by Katrina - being under 3 feet of water, but if you are new to the park, as we were, it just isn't evident. The huge oaks hang heavy with Spanish moss - I tried to get the effect in a photo, but couldn't quite capture it. They have a mini amusement park, golf courses, picnic areas, boating, an art museum, botanical gardens and lots more. We spent some time in Storyland and the Train Gardens in the Botanical Gardens. Storyland is a small park for kids with charming little vignettes and figures from fairytales and kid lit:

Some are large enough to climb on - an especially cool one is a fire breathing dragon that is a slide. Kids climb up his tail and slice down his flame:

Most of the figures are molded fiberglass and brightly colored. They included the 3 pigs and their houses, Jack climbing a beanstalk, The Old Woman who lived in a shoe, Peter and Captain Hook fighting in a crow's nest in a little ship, etc., etc. All kid-sized and very charming and nostalgic to someone who grew up going to Storybook Land and The Enchanted Forest!

Mr. Kim: Storyland was cute, but the Train Gardens were really charming. Overall the track layout covered maybe 100 feet by 50 feet and was more or less laid out in the shape of NOLA between Lake Ponchartrain and the river. Two volunteers were there keeping the trains running on time and doing general repairs. We got a quick impromptu primer on G gauge trains, building manufacture, and the old neighborhoods (sort of) represented. Three trains and two streetcars were running:

Me again: I agree completely. The Train Garden was whimsical and charming and very well done. Between the volunteer engineers and the additional miniature houses designed by local artists it is truly a labor of love. What we saw at the Botanical gardens was lovely - still Katrina damaged and not much in season just yet:

Just now it is post peak camellias and prior to all the bulb activity, I suppose. I'd love to see it all in full flower.

One of the whimsical birdhouses at the Botanical Gardens:

There were a number of these, done by local artists in the various styles of NOLA architecture – including a little shotgun cottage.

Our NOLA Trip - 28th Wedding Anniversary Part IV

Unfortunately, due to being able to post only 5 pictures per post here, I’ve had to divide up the report. And since blogs are arranged how they are, you have to go backwards. So start on “Our NOLA Trip – Part I” and go from there through “Our NOLA Trip – Part X”

Sunday, March 21 - "The Day of the Dead"

I started jokingly calling this day on the itinerary "The Day of the Dead" because the plan was to visit (among other things) 3 cemeteries today. We got to 2 of them. It was a bitterly cold day - the newspaper said a high of 55, but with the wind it felt much colder. It was 76 in Richmond today! We had breakfast at Stanley, just down from our hotel on Jackson Square. Jackson Square is a public park surrounded by broad sidewalks that are populated by local artists, tarot readers, and yet more of the buskers from the Quarter. You could see them settling in to their day, pulling out lawn chairs, setting up signage, and chatting about real life while they cast their nets for tourist dollars. One fortune teller, dressed in black jeans and a black t shirt 3 sizes too small, carried on casual conversations with her friends while a large white rat nuzzled in her arms like a sleeping toddler (Mr. Kim was very squicked out by this - I was not, being a rodent person).

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this fine gentleman in his kilt:

All this could be seen from the restaurant, which allowed life to pass by and proceed while the diners settled into a nice day at a different pace. It seems that some form of Eggs Benedict is the NOLA breakfast, which is fine by me. I had Eggs Stella (lots of Stella references in this town) - which was just regular Eggs Benedict with Creole hollandaise and a big, fat gorgeous soft shell crab on the side. Again, superlative crab. The breading was a mite heavy for me - almost tempura-style. I prefer just a dusting of cornmeal or flour and pan sautéed softshells and I think this must have been deep fried. But the crab was crazy good. Mr. Kim had the corned beef hash with poached eggs and toasted French bread. Very good corned beef. The poached eggs were perfectly cooked - fully cooked whites and gently flowing yolks.

Mr. Kim: Our waiter, like everyone else we talked with, was natural and friendly. After the initial where are you from/what have you seen ice breaker, his eyes lit up as we talked through our dining plans. He proclaimed that our choices of Willie Mae’s and Parkway and Luke and Gallatoire and Cochon were excellent, rolling his eyes in apparent envy and indicating we had done our homework and he couldn’t recommend better. He rolled of this dish or that dish that we should try at various spots and made a few additional suggestions including Frenchmen’s Street that we hadn’t mentioned. He approved of our plans for the streetcar to the cemeteries, indicating it was like a free tour of the city. He studiously left his opinions about touristing the graveyards to himself. Frequently waiters overstay their welcome or interject themselves a bit too deeply into patrons’ lives. While this conversation may have actually qualified, it left us feeling more excited about our day rather than violated in some minor way.

After breakfast, we walked out to Canal Street and caught the streetcar up to the Greenwood and Cypress Grove cemeteries. Touring cemeteries sounds odd, but they are very popular in New Orleans. Because of the water levels in the city, they are all above ground and the vaults are built in various and beautiful styles. Some are very elaborate and built of brick or stone or even iron. Many of them are built like little houses and so the cemeteries are called "Cities of the Dead":

It sounds kind of creepy, but they really aren't like that at all. They are wonderful and lovingly kept. We saw flowers on vaults where the last time people were interred was in the 1940's. On one grave, we saw a scattering of plastic Easter eggs as a family shared what must have been a special time of year with their dearly loved mother. A couple of the other cemeteries are right in town, a part of the neighborhoods. I found it quite nice, actually. We took lots of pictures, though not as many as I would have liked because I'd forgotten to charge my camera battery and was afraid I'd run out of juice. These were just amazing and sad and awe inspiring. I decided I'd like to be buried in a place like that: