Project Love Baton Rouge: Project Aborted

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Okay, so my ENFPness got distracted at day 34 of my Project Love Baton Rouge series. Can’t help it… that’s just me. When I decide I’ve lost interest, I’ve lost interest. But I think 34 days was pretty good! I had lots to think about and made myself be open-minded about the city where I live.

If truth be told, one day last week, I took a pic of the Camellia blooms outside my office. I intended to write about them but just got busy and never did. I love the fact that there are flowers in bloom pretty much year ’round here.

So, I’m moving on to my next project which is Project Write Whatever the Hell I Want. It’s fairly obvious what will happen there, and, if not, stay tuned. You’ll figure it out. I did enjoy having a focus for awhile. But focus is not my strong suit. I’ll admit it. So sue me.

A company here in Baton Rouge contacted me at one point to suggest I write a post about a product that they happened to sell. I replied to tell her that I wasn’t advertising for people. This was my personal blog and experience. It was weird. But I guess that’s the way of the world these days. They are not familiar with my tendency to Write Whatever the Hell I Want. 

P.S.: Midlife Moments had its best day ever last week with over 12,000 reads in one day. I finally went viral – but it was with a blog that I wrote 3 years ago. It was pretty funny. I’m still getting hundreds of reads a day from that post, but it is tapering off. I definitely think I need to be the Grand Marshall of the Lakeland Christmas Parade next year… or at the very least get a free eggnog latte. 

 

Project Love Baton Rouge: Day 34 – Snooty Coffee

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I made an executive decision the other day to start buying my eggnog lattes at the local coffeehouse CC’s. It had nothing to do with the cup. The beloved local coffeehouse doesn’t even offer a holiday cup. The simple reason is that they add whipped cream to the already amazing concoction of eggnog and espresso. I had one sip, and I switched. It was all in good taste, plain and simple.

I grew up with the grocery store brand of Community Coffee, and it is a diehard well-loved tradition here in Louisiana to drink Community Coffee. It ranks right up there with the Confederate flag and guns in this neck of the woods. It is a very good coffee. However, my tastes in coffee have grown and changed over the years, and I much prefer a gourmet coffee. Community even has a gourmet specialty blend of coffee for customers like me, and I mail-ordered it for a number of years when I lived out of state until I found Starbucks. I’ve even been known to pay $25 for a pound of Kona coffee grown by women whom I met face-to-face on a Hawaii retreat. I love good coffee.

A couple of times in the last few weeks I’ve heard snarky comments from my girlfriends about my “paying $5 for a cup of coffee” or not settling for the store brand with some creamer. I’m not sure why they care whether or not I like a specialty coffee – I don’t weigh in on their indulgences – but they felt the need to dig at me for doing it. It hurt a little, I’ll have to say. I heard a little bit of a “you’re too big for your britches” kind of snide remark.

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So, let me explain myself…  I’ll caution you that it’s Monday. I’m having to drink my $4.96 eggnog latte in 80-degree weather. The more I sweated trying to enjoy my cup the more indignant I have become. I don’t spend 5 million dollars a year on fatty meats, booze, fried food and cable TV. I don’t go to nightclubs and high-priced athletic events. There’s a lot of things that I don’t do that you might do. So, if I want to pay $5 for a cup of fabulous dark, rich, creamy coffee at a specialty coffee shop, I don’t feel bad about it. You can look down your judgmental nose at me while you drink your acidic, nasty-tasting coffee-flavored water that tastes so bad you have to douse it with a chemical-laden sugar-infused milk substitute to make it drinkable. I don’t care. I’m happy with myself and my choices.

So what I love today about Baton Rouge is I have lots of choices for my hoity-toity specialty coffee addiction, and one of them exists no where else in the country but Louisiana. CCs makes the best eggnog latte I’ve ever had to boot. And I’m not going against any age old Louisiana tradition by drinking specialty coffee. New Orleans is the birthplace of cold brew coffee, and Community doesn’t even sell that. So, don’t pull that loyalty flag out on me either. I’m putting my money where my mouth is. Now you can shut yours and go about your Monday.

P.S. PJ’s (another New Orleans’ coffehouse) makes the best frozen mocha granita. I’m just sayin’.

Project Love Baton Rouge: Day 33 – Tan Lines in November

I know I complain about the heat and weird-ass weather, but I did have to giggle a little when I showered this afternoon and realized I got some sun today. I actually had tan lines after hiking in November. I know Kevin – an Oregonian – said today on the hike that he was getting sun when we went out to the riverbank. It’s so weird that it’s kind of cool.

That’s what I love about Baton Rouge today … sorry I’m using this pic again, but it shows my tank top and shorts!

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Project Love Baton Rouge: Day 32 – Fresh Citrus

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Momma took my niece to pick oranges and grapefruits today at a local orchard. I went to Sammy’s (my brother) house and picked up my sack of just-picked packages of juicy, orangey, vitamin C. As soon as I got home I cut open and peeled an orange and ate it. Citrus is the one thing Ashok doesn’t like to eat, so it was all my own.

I can walk down the street and pick citrus – lemons, oranges, satsumas and grapefruits – off the trees in neighborhood yards. I don’t because it’s their fruit, but it’s kind of cool that I could if I really wanted some. Michael snatched some off his neighbor’s tree the other day. They looked like gigantic lemons, and we couldn’t figure out what type of citrus he’d snagged. It’s hard to resist, whatever it is. Beautiful orangey and yellow jewels hang heavy on the trees just begging for you to appreciate them.

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It was 80 degrees today, and I took a 3-hour nap after I turned the AC down to about 50. I bundled up in my quilt and snoozed like a baby. I woke up chilled and was a bit shocked when I opened the door and it was so warm outside. I even trick myself into believing it’s cold. But, I guess without the 80-degree weather Thanksgiving weekend, we wouldn’t have fresh citrus by the bushel.

So, today what I love about Baton Rouge is the availability of fresh citrus. Now, I just have to get busy eating it!

Project Love Baton Rouge: Day 31 -Close Enough to Listen

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A long time ago, I heard a Ted Talk by Dave Isay on an initiative called StoryCorps. I’ll let you listen to the Ted Talk for the inspiration for this initiative, but basically it’s a tool to capture people’s stories through interviews. They set up booths in several cities where people had the opportunity to interview loved ones about the details of their lives.  The interviews have been uploaded to a database where they can be listened to around the world.

Ted Talk with Dave Isay

Eventually, StoryCorps created an app for smartphones so that everyone could interview their friends and loved ones to archive for future generations. It’s been over a year since I heard about this, but I was immediately enthused about the idea. I know from blogging that is very powerful to tell my stories, and I know that other people have stories that never really get heard. I think that’s terribly sad.

I visited my parents today in Pierre Part about an hour from Baton Rouge. I had heard that StoryCorps had an initiative this year to motivate people to interview an elder so that their story could be told and shared with the world. It is called the “Great Thanksgiving Listen”. I had forgotten about it until I got an email reminder today while I was sitting on my parents’ couch.

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“Hey, would either of you like to be interviewed for StoryCorps?” I asked.

Daddy immediately said no. To my surprise Momma agreed even though she said she was the most boring person. I was so excited that she agreed I had to hurry up and figure out how to use this thing before she decided she was way too boring to do this. We finally got started, and it was one of the most enjoyable conversations I’ve had in awhile. I learned several things about my Mother that I didn’t know, and I learned that she and I are alike in ways that I did not realize. She, like me, began exploring travel in the outdoors late in life. And she found it very empowering.

You can listen to my interview with Momma below.

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Interview with Momma Thanksgiving 2015

But what I’d really like to ask you to do is to experience this for yourself. It was an incredibly intimate experience having this conversation with Momma. Having the recorder there for a purpose took some of the fear out of doing it. We started out with a series of questions chosen from the website, and after the second one, I was drawn in and forgot about the list of questions. I just wanted to know more. I’m not sure how it felt for her, but I felt very touched. I think you will find it to be worth the 40 or so minutes that it takes.

Don’t know where to start? Have no idea what to ask? Here’s a link to some of the questions you can ask. 

What I love about Baton Rouge today is being close enough to my parents that I can drive over the day after Thanksgiving and have a conversation that I wouldn’t have been able to have in the fuss of a big holiday or in the rush of a short vacation.

Project Love Baton Rouge: Day 30 – Proximity to Michael’s House

 

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It’s always exciting to me when I first meet people because you never know exactly what your journey with them is going to look like. Will I know them forever? Will I meet them and shortly part ways? At this stage of my life, one of the most fascinating things is to look back and see which relationships had staying power. I have a few long-term friendships. I tend to keep in touch. But one of the more interesting ones with staying power is my relationship with Michael.

We met in Michigan as part of a reorganization with Whirlpool. There was a new leadership team hired that was working on transforming the call center. I don’t think Michael was part of that team, but he was hired shortly afterward as our Human Resources Director. He was single. I was single. We were both Southern. The Yanks thought we should be together, and I asked him to go on a canoe trip. I tell the entire story in a blog I wrote long ago, but, to make a long story short, Michael was gay and had was not interested in what I had to offer. Needless to say, we did not start dating, but we did become friends.

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We both moved away from Michigan, and we lost touch. But, when I moved to Memphis, guess who lived there? Our friendship was rekindled, and, through a series of events, we became close. Michael just recently moved to New Orleans with his husband, Darren, and, when my trip to Memphis fell through, I called him to see if I could join his gathering for lunch. The answer was yes, and I made the hour drive to Gretna for Thanksgiving Dinner today.

What I love about Baton Rouge today has very little to do with Baton Rouge and more to do with it’s proximity to Michael’s house. Michael has a way of making a home come to life. He’s an amazing cook and decorator, but he has a special knack for being a host. I always feel welcome, I always leave happier than when I arrived, and I always … always leave full. Today was no exception.

Christmas is Michael’s favorite reason to celebrate, and I could tell he had already started when I walked in the door.

I was immediately greeted by Sandy, an old friend from Whirlpool who was part of that leadership team hired in Michigan. We had a great time catching up and reminiscing about old times. She and her hubby left the snow in Michigan and were enjoying soaking up the sun on the 76 degree day in N’awlins.

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It was all hands on deck getting ready for the party that was primarily attended by Darren’s family, Michael’s parents from Pontotoc MS and Sandy, Jim and myself as the Whirlpool contingent. Michael as always did most of the cooking in his three new ovens.

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I had plenty to eat….

Rebecca and Amanda had plenty of homemade Irish Cream to drink….

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The table was lovely….

The homemade bread and desserts were over the top. In fact, today’s offering goes down as the best apple pie ever that has passed these lips…

And, of course, the room was lovely…

Even the kitchen help was adorable…

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To think …. a few months ago, I had to drive 5 hours to Houston in order to spend some time at Michael’s house. Now, it’s a day trip. That’s truly something to love about Baton Rouge.

Thank you, Michael…. another beautiful offering from your hands.

To read about some of Michael’s other parties, check these out:

The Dancing House in Houston

A Little Lasagne Party in NOLA

Project Love Baton Rouge: Day 29 – Independent Supermarkets

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When I lived in Memphis there was one choice in supermarkets – Kroger. To be fair, there were many different sizes and flavors of Kroger, but the mega-chain came in and bought all of the other grocery stores after I’d been there about 5 years. Wild Oats was there and eventually became Whole Foods, but it was never as nice as most of the Whole Foods I’ve come to know and love. I hear it’s better now, but I’m not there, so I have no idea.

In Indiana, I could never find a grocery that I loved. I grew up here in Baton Rouge, and food is where it’s at in this town. My friend Jan calls Baton Rouge “the land of good food”. So, I really suffered in the rural Midwest with the limited selection of great groceries. At times I got so desperate that I drove an hour and a half to Chicago to shop at Trader Joe’s.

My first grocery choice when I moved here was Calandro’s Supermarkets. It’s a local independent grocery that is a cross between a gourmet specialty store and a neighborhood grocery. I still shop there with about the same frequency as I shop at Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s is cheaper on my greek yogurt, but Calandro’s has such great chicken salad and local produce that it’s hard to pass up.

My friend Keri in Memphis is originally from New Orleans. When I told her that I was heading to Memphis over Thanksgiving (that’s been sand-bagged now), she asked if I could find a local grocery that sells oyster dressing. Her Dad had a hankering for it, and, apparently, some of the old New Orleans’ local grocers used to sell cartons of it at Thanksgiving. I couldn’t find it at Calandro’s, and she recommended I call LeBlanc’s. I had never heard of LeBlanc’s, so I called to check on the dressing. They didn’t have it, but the place sounded interesting enough for a visit, so I thought I’d check it out.

I got on a new local virtual garage sale app today called VarageSale. It’s sort of a local eBay except you don’t bid on items. Much to my surprise one of the first items I saw was a pair of Keen’s sandals which would be perfect for camp shoes when I’m backpacking. I needed some comfortable sandals which with room for me to wear socks. I contacted the seller Kelli, and we agreed to meet at LeBlanc’s. I had time to go in and look around, and I was so excited about this new store.

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My VarageSale steal… brand-new for $40. I saw them at The Backpacker today for $90.

My Uncle Bump said it is new, and it was a Hi-Nabor before it’s remodel. It’s clean and modern and has a huge deli-bakery. My favorite cake of all time is a lemon and chocolate Dobasch cake, and they make them there! They have muffulettas, cartons of gumbo, red beans and rice and packages of spaghetti and meatballs. The hot bar tonight featured fresh veggies and Chinese food. Of course, they had a complete liquor store, and they had a bulk food section. It was sort of a cross between Whole Foods and an old-time independent grocer. They even carried healthy items such as Kombucha and Quinoa drinks. My favorite cold brew coffee was $2.00 cheaper than at Whole Foods, and they had my Greek yogurt on sale for $5.39 for a 32 oz. container. I was impressed.

I bought a box of my favorite Stash Chai tea and made a note to myself to go back when I have more time. It’s just going to be hard to decide where to grocery shop here. I have so many options. Trader Joe’s is my Seattle favorite and has the best selection of nuts and dried fruits. Calandro’s has my favorite chicken salad. Whole Foods has the largest selection of organic dairy and health food items. The farmer’s market is hands-down the best place for produce. And, now I’ve got this new place. I wonder what great things it will offer. At any rate, I wish I ate more than I do because I’ll never need enough food to shop at all of these places regularly.

So what I love today about Baton Rouge is the variety of independent grocers here. I’m glad to see that they can still make a profit and survive among the big chains. It shows that people here support local businesses especially when it comes to their food.

Project Love Baton Rouge – Days 24, 25, 26, 27 and 28

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At Mt. Rainier when Susan visited me in Seattle

Okay, I’ve been a little swamped. But, I have not abandoned my “Love Baton Rouge” Project. I just need to catch up a little. Today I love Baton Rouge because I get to meet my sister for lunch. For 30-something years, we hardly saw each other. She had minimal vacation, and I lived away. She made the effort several times to come see me in Seattle, Michigan and Memphis. But we just never had enough time. Thankfully, she became a teacher and started having more time for travel. But, now, we can just have lunch. She – or I – travel about an hour and a half, and we are face-to-face. It’s not something I take for granted.

Day 24 – Friday… I know that the last 2 weeks I’ve been loving my job. I’m teaching a faculty professional development class, and I’ve been having individual coaching sessions with my student-teachers. For an ENFP like me this is an awesome experience. I am tired by the end of the day, and by Friday I was exhausted. But, the days passed really quickly as I moved from appointment to appointment via webcam. It was great hearing their ideas on their new courses and many had compliments on my course. So Day 24 I loved the fact that I’m getting to do some really fun things in my job.

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Day 25 – Saturday. My hair was insane. For two weeks, I’ve been struggling with it. I only get it cut every 3 months, and Saturday was my appointment. It now looks amazing again. On Day 25, what I love about Baton Rouge is the fact that we have a DevaCurl certified hairdresser. And don’t think for a minute that’s not special. A lot of small cities don’t have one. If I can’t get an appointment with Eric, I have to drive to New Orleans, Houston or Mobile. In fact this summer when I had to reschedule for my vacation, I could only find an appointment in Asheville! She was awesome though, so I’m glad it worked out that way. And, believe me, if I need a cut and can’t get an appointment, I will make the drive. It’s the only thing that’s ever worked for my hair except cutting it all off. I am blessed that Eric is 8 minutes from my house.

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My first DevaCurl cut back in March

Day 26 – Sunday. Sunday was an amazing day hiking and camping, but I’ve already “loved” the backpacking class and the hiking club. Poor Ashok ate sand and had to go the emergency clinic at Sherwood South Animal Hospital. They are amazing. They are open 24 hours every day, and I don’t have to fret anymore about emergencies after hours. They are there… they are phenomenal … and they cost about the same as the regular veterinarian. I waited 3 hours on Sunday to see a vet, but it was because that place was jammed with dogs that had been attacked by other dogs, suffered serious accidents and even one that died. When those things happen, I can tell you it’s great to know there’s a place to go where they can help you and your furry friend.

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At Mt. Rainier when Susan visited me in Seattle

Day 27 – Monday. Yesterday I was exhausted. I slept well on Sunday night, but it was a busy, busy weekend. This week is no less busy. I had plenty of things I needed to do last night – work out, get packed for Memphis, clean my house – but I decided to curl up on the sofa, drink some hot chocolate and chill. So, yesterday what I loved about Baton Rouge was having such a busy life that I have to MAKE TIME for downtime. I actually thought about how much downtime I’ve had in the past and how different that is from right now. I’m sure it will cycle back, but right now I’m loving that my life is so full of amazing people and things to do. December is almost booked!

Some of my recent gatherings!

 

 

Project Love Baton Rouge: Day 23 – Tredici Bakery

Yesterday I had to pick up a little birthday present for a friend. I was trying to find something really but not over-the-top. I wanted something that was a special treat. I’m not much into presents… I’m more into experiences.

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I remembered the new bakery that opened 50 yards from my house on Capital Heights. On her opening day, I was her third customer and purchased some wonderful macaroons. The owner is a trained pastry chef- this is no coffee shop- it’s a real bonifide bakery. I stopped and bought a box of treats that Lisa said was fabulous. She mentioned the macaroons too.

Our office had a pot luck lunch today, so I ordered a chocolate pie. It was pricey, but I was told it was “to die for”. So I picked it up this morning. It was the best chocolate  pie I’ve ever had. Luckily, there was a piece left over, and I’ll get to have another piece tomorrow.

So what I love today about Baton Rouge is the Tredici Bakery in my neighborhood. I have a feeling lots of people in my social circle will be getting yummy “experiences” whipped up in that little specialty kitchen.

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Project Love Baton Rouge: Day 22 – History

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I met some old childhood girlfriends for lunch today. We haven’t seen each other a lot since I’ve been here except for the birthday girl, Lisa, who I see every month for my facials. But, it really doesn’t matter. We know each other in a way that I don’t know many women on this earth.

They knew me as an inquisitive and shy child. They knew me as an overweight frizzy-haired pubescent junior high-schooler. They knew me as  a confused and rebellious teenager. Jean Ann lived down the street from me, and we walked to school together, hiked in the woods behind the subdivision on days off and helped each other get ready for beauty pageants. I even have a picture somewhere of me and my sister and Jean Ann and her sister swimming in the Atchafalaya Basin in life jackets.

I didn’t hang out with Donna and Lisa as much, but in our small community, everybody knew everybody. I know all of their brothers and sisters and their parents. I remember what cars they drove and who they dated. And they remember me. We even remember each other’s pets.

When I met people living in other parts of the country, I had to tell them my history if I even felt the need to share it. Usually I didn’t. What’s the point? It’s the past, and I’m a different person now, right? I am different in a lot of ways, but when I’m with these girlfriends I’m the same young girl that hated her frizzy hair, was jealous of Jean Ann’s thinness, Donna’s height and Lisa’s innate sweetness. I’ve seen how it all turns out now, so I don’t feel the envy and worry that I don’t measure up. I know I measure up but in my own way with my own measuring stick.

What I love about Baton Rouge today is that I have history here. I actually have lots of history here. There’s a back story from my early childhood, another several chapters while I was in school, and another chapter while I was in college. There are relationships in all of that history. I freaked out a little when they all started finding me on Facebook. I thought I had left that behind like a snake shedding its skin. But, I didn’t, and now I’m here in the middle of it. It has disadvantages, but, for the most part, I love that I have history here.

Tomorrow I go back to my college football stadium for a football game. There is history there, too. It will knock on the windows of my mind at the weirdest times. A memory will pop up that I had buried long ago. And I’ll giggle a little remembering that girl who had no idea how adventurous her life would be. Knowing how it all turns out makes it a little more bearable than it was back then when I was afraid of how to make a life. That’s what I love about having history here.  I can see how far I’ve come.