41 In Life

Thanksgiving & New Orleans


I was going to title this post “Catching Up”, but if I’m honest, I could title every post “Catching Up”. I feel like there’s always so much catching up to do and not nearly enough time to actually do it. We have been busy little bees, going back and forth between the brown house and the rental house, packing and unpacking, visiting with friends and saying good bye to friends. Living in limbo between the two may be catching up with me, and honestly, I’ve found myself being tempted to despair. When I feel overwhelmed, or like this limbo game is one I’d rather not play any longer, I remind myself the alternative is to live alone with the children and have weekend visits from Justin. I had that last year. While it offers the material comforts of home and is lacking the stress of running two homes, it is truly void of what our family needs, which is being together. So we are all still together, and I am thankful for that. I just have been a little overwhelmed keeping up with, and going between two places. We initially thought we would be here through December, but it looks like it will be quite a bit longer… which is great because we love it here. I just need a better system to manage being in two places.

So, back to the catching up business. We packed up the week of Thanksgiving and headed back to the brown house to spend Thanksgiving there.


Our Thanksgiving dinner plans weren’t to begin until later in the day, so we had the pleasure of spending Thanksgiving morning at Justin’s family’s farm. We gathered leaves, picked Satsumas, climbed deer stands, checked on the bees {which gave us a little concern with their lack of activity– we are hoping the chilly temps were to blame for so few coming and going from the hive}.



The kids and I sat in the car while Justin got a closer look at the bees.




On our way home we had the pleasure of spotting a bald eagle… it was beautiful!


My mother-in-law always does Thanksgiving up right with all the festive accoutrements. The food was fantastic, and it’s always good to be among family that we don’t see as often as we used to.



Like a crazy person, I ventured out on Black Friday with the kids to buy an artificial tree. There seemed to be no alternative considering no one would be there to water it. We survived our quick trip to Lowe’s, got back home, threw that baby together in a matter of minutes and wasted no time stringing the bright colored lights. If I only get to see that Christmas tree for 3 or 4 nights it was worth every penny.






After the Thanksgiving festivities were all said and done, we made our way back to Orange Beach. Justin had a conference in New Orleans this past week and guess who got to sneak away and join him!? {It would be appropriate to enter excited squeals here.} My very kind and generous in-laws came to our house last Tuesday so that I could head over to New Orleans for a few days with Justin. I feel confident many of you have children and understand how few and far between nights away can be. In fact, this was our first time to get away together, just the two of us, since we’ve had kids. {Shame on us, we know!} I rolled in to New Orleans alone, Justin was already there, and somehow I didn’t know, or forgot that New Orleans is a pretty big city! I managed to get myself a little turned around but eventually found the hotel.

Night 1 we snapped a picture together before walking out the door…


We made it to the lobby where I ran into a college friend and took another picture of my handsome husband. πŸ™‚


We stayed at the newly re-opened Hyatt Regency by the Superdome… it was way nice. {As the Raiger would say.} I’d go again and hang out with a bunch of crazy archaeologists just to stay there. Speaking of crazy archaeologists, I’m married to one and we got to spend a great deal of time with others as this was a “Cultural Resources” conference. The first night we made our way on foot to John Besh’s Luke on St. Charles. I ordered something terribly awful for my health but absolutely delicious to my taste buds…. the Croque-Madame et Frites.


There was lively {the nicest way I can think to say it} college football banter & a little archaeology talk to accompany it.


The next morning came early, and Justin was to be in scheduled meetings all day. I did my homework and knew that I wanted to spend at least one day in the Garden District on Magazine Street. Now, let me tell you, all of that was easy to plan out beforehand but when the rubber hit the road and I knew that I was about to venture out in New Orleans alone, including a plan to brave public transportation, I admit I had to have a little pep talk with myself that there’s no reason why a 31-year-old, mother-of-three can’t get around New Orleans on her own. To reassure myself I stopped by the concierge to run my plan by her and make sure she didn’t advise otherwise. She said it sounded good to her. I’m sure some of you are old pros at navigating cities… I’m getting there!

My first encounter was with the street car. We stayed in the Central Business District {CBD} right beside the Superdome… it was a fine location but I probably walked about 20 miles both days I was there. Day one, I ventured down Poydras to St. Charles and planned catch a street car to the Garden District. The first lesson I learned was: it helps to wait for a street car at a street car stop. Don’t think I didn’t chase him down & beat on the door. I also learned very quickly that public street cars are usually very full, and not of tourists. In fact, I may have been the only one. I wondered if I looked like a tourist. Maybe the 14 layers of clothes and sweat on my forehead gave me away. Too bad I didn’t have my big camera around my neck to seal the deal.

My first stop was the Brass Menagerie where I may have spent way too much time with the older couple who own it, but in turn received first hand accounts of their Katrina story. They have beautiful pieces but I currently am not in the market for gas lanterns, door knobs, faucets, or drawer pulls!



This is Magazine Street…


It’s a fabulous stretch of antique shops, cafes, old houses, thrift shops, & boutiques. Thankfully it lacks the scantily clad, or naked women, cages and Voodoo shops that you can find in the French Quarter. I also noticed theΒ  homeless folks I encountered on Magazine didn’t scream “*@&# you!” if you didn’t contribute to their cigarette fund.

Here are a few more pictures of my time exploring Magazine…






I had a delicious lunch {tomato bisque & salad} at Gott Gourmet Cafe. I sat at the counter, which seemed like the most logical place to sit when dining alone.



And then I ventured back out…


And loved every minute of it…


I found several little things at an antique shop to give as Christmas gifts, and for myself, I found a pair of twig-like earrings at a boutique/antique store and a sweet mustard yellow shirt for myself at a thrift store.


Since I can’t show my gifts, I’ll show two of my finds for myself…






This night we opted for dinner alone at Emeril’s NOLA. We walked from our hotel and while it’s not terribly far, it’s kinda far. But it was so good! And it was so nice to have dinner together, just the two of us.




A creme brulee trio followed our meal…




… and after!




After all that food we decided we’d walk some more. We headed up to Marigny which is a part of town Justin enjoys for it’s music joints. We strolled around a while, poking our heads in different bars, listening for music that would draw us in. We finally found it… with a street band, their dogs, and their instruments. I would imagine they were all late teens to early 20’s. We spent about an hour with them. Justin played their guitar and they accompanied him with the fiddle and mandolin. It was entertaining and they were great kids. I gathered that they weren’t truly “homeless”, but they welcomed food money and leftovers. I was so thankful to be out in the fresh air with these nice kids than to be sitting in a smokey loud bar. We wanted to go back the last night we were there but didn’t make it. If you’re familiar with NOLA, when I tell you I walked from the Superdome to the streetcar and then walked all of the Garden District and then walked from the Superdome to NOLA and then to Frenchman in Marigny… you know it was a day with lots of walking {not in any kind of athletic shoe}. Justin very graciously heeded my suggestion for a cab ride to the hotel from Marigny.




I’m apparently a slow learner because the next morning when Justin headed out for his conference I, again, had to have a similar pep talk with myself… go explore the city. have fun. you will regret it if you don’t. So again, I set out on foot. My first stop didn’t require too much gumption… Anthropologie. It was my first time in one and it didn’t take me long to realize I really like Anthropologie. From there I ventured further into the French Quarter. I made my way to The Little Toy Shop on Decatur, past Jackson Square. I found a few things for the kids and then made my way to Felipe’s {you need to read that in Spanish, not French} for lunch. I happened to go to Felipe’s by way of Cafe Du Monde because I could think of nothing that was better suited to follow my Mexican lunch than a beignet. Even Felipe’s Taqueria is beautiful… I love OLD cities! I spent the rest of the day poking around the French Quarter which was great, but I may have secretly wished I was back in the Garden District.










When Justin’s conference wrapped up that evening we planned to meet some folks at Napoleon House for dinner. I was nearly walked out at this point so we hopped on a pedicab and were actually a little early so we stopped in a great bookstore on Chartres before dinner. Napoleon House had good ambiance but the menu, in my opinion, didn’t measure up to the ambiance of the restaurant. But we had a great time with the dinner crew… I was again outnumbered by the archaeologists but had a great time and enjoyed their conversations.Β  They are a super nice group of folks, and I believe we all had a great evening. We shut down the Napoleon House and made our way to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, one of the oldest buildings still standing in New Orleans. I am not a night owl so at this point I was fading fast, but I was thankful to be able to see a really cool spot on Bourbon Street, they have NO indoor lighting, all candles. Very cool. From there we called it a night and headed back to the hotel.






We headed east the next morning early and were so excited to see the little rovers, all so big and dearly missed, but we sure enjoyed a weekend away just the two of us… such a great little reminder we need to do it again soon and not wait 8 years! I absolutely loved our time in New Orleans. It was surprisingly much more charming than I remembered, and I look forward to going back again!


I took my camera but it stayed in the suitcase most of the time… I did take a few pictures of our view from our room on the 23rd floor.



Wow… long post! Time for bed, I’ll be back soon.

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  • Christine
    December 6, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    Love this post! We are closer to New Orleans now and I can’t wait for my hubs to have time so we can visit. Your pics are beautiful and now Magazine St is top on my list for our trip! Happy Holidays! (I’m sure the two house thing is hard, but hang in there. You can do it. Home is where the heart is!)

  • Bethany
    December 7, 2011 at 12:48 am

    Love your pictures and post about NOLA. I am there a good bit and post about it every so often. I am always so overwhelmed at how much there is to see. I have to force myself to explore new places, and I am never disappointed.

  • wowie
    December 7, 2011 at 1:21 am

    Girl. You walked from the Superdome to NOLA? And then to the Marigny? I am impressed. Seriously. I would have been whining for a cab long before you did.

    P.S. You saved yourself for an awesome Anthro. They are all cool, but not that cool.

  • meghan
    December 7, 2011 at 1:27 am

    I love New Orleans! I’ve been three times and am dying to take my husband one day. So glad you had fun! It’s an intimidating city – I’d have to give myself pep talks before going out alone too! πŸ™‚

  • Adriana L
    December 7, 2011 at 6:49 am

    I have always wanted to go to New Orleans and this post is making it very tempting!

  • paige
    December 7, 2011 at 7:11 am

    i loved that little catch up missy!
    & i sure do hope you’ll be back….there’s front cover chatter that you’re adoring fans such as i need to hear all about

    merry christmas darby doll

  • Shirley
    December 7, 2011 at 7:12 am

    I got tickled with your photo of empty cups at NOLA. My friends and I were enjoying a meal in New Orleans at Irene’s and, as usual, were snapping pics of our plates loaded with yummy fare. The waiter came back over with his puzzled look and asked if we worked for a food magazine. Nope. Then why are you taking pictures of your food. Our thought….doesn’t everyone? Then we snapped shots of the empty plates and really did him in.
    Love your blog…love Orange Beach….and Urban Grace, too.

  • Raven
    December 7, 2011 at 8:15 am

    Lafitte’s is my favorite place in NOLA. Every time I go to the city I have to have at least one drink there.

    My husband and I were married in City Park under the live oaks right before Katrina happened and we’ve been there many times, I love the history and music.

  • HannahJ
    December 7, 2011 at 9:08 am

    The New Orleans trip sans kiddos looked AMAZING- how nice to get a way sometimes a refresh your marriage?!

    And as far as making decisions goes- a very wise professor once told me- “the decision you make, is always the right decision”- even if it is a hard one!

  • Cousie
    December 7, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Looks amazing! George loves N.O and has been trying to get me to go with him forever! I’m now convinced! His selling points weren’t nearly as fun as yours! I am so impressed that you ventured out on your own! I’m such a chicken when I go with Geo on business to see the sights alone. Mainly because I get lost very easily, but I’ll try next time! Love you!! XO

  • Dianne
    December 7, 2011 at 9:27 am

    I love New Orleans! I am so glad you went and ventured out to see the city. Our favorite has always been the French Quarter. It is so raw and gutsy and real. The music on the streets and the art…fantastic! The Garden District is beautiful but there are beautiful old homes in every city…there are not areas like the French Quarter. πŸ™‚
    Hope you get to spend Christmas at the brown house. No place like home for the holidays. Love to you and your sweet family.
    xoxo Dianne

  • Keri
    December 7, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Thank you for the update!! Raiger is growing! she is so precious in that pic by the tree! As I was reading your post it did my heart good (for some reason) to see pics again of the “brown house”. πŸ™‚ And btw…I LOVE NOLA!! Despite other things in the city I love the beauty of the French-ness there. It amazes me how you make friends with people that own shops…I think it would be so fun to shop with you. ha! I would love to hear their Katrina story as well! And I have eaten at Emeril’s before. So good. So glad you and Justin had time away and you ventured out to see the city! πŸ™‚
    (ps. I decided to quit “stalking” your blog and actually make comments after following you for sometime now) πŸ™‚

  • shannon
    December 7, 2011 at 10:01 am

    love reading about your NO trip. i absolutely love that city and simply must get back there soon.

    so glad y’all had such a good time! and it seems like you hit up some fabulous places while you were there!

  • Shannon @ Project Shannon
    December 7, 2011 at 10:05 am

    So glad you and Justin were able to get away – just the two of you(!) – for a change. I think weekends like this are necessities masquerading as luxuries.

  • Whitney
    December 7, 2011 at 10:07 am


    I am seriously hurt that you didn’t email me to take you out in nola! I live 2 blocks from mag & would’ve loved to take you out hahaha. So glad you love the city! I couldn’t love it anymore!! There is absolutely no where else I’d rather be.

  • The Mom
    December 7, 2011 at 10:22 am

    We have all missed you (I don’t mind speaking on behalf of the rest of the blogworld), but I rightly assumed that you were likely feeling a little overwhelmed with the daunting prospect of a move or a holiday split between two houses. I am glad that you decided to keep your family intact at the bay house. You will never regret this, I promise you. It may be a tremendous juggling act, but the memories you are making are golden. You are also imparting an adventurous spirit to your children as well as lessons in making life work. Invaluable! I will continue to pray for the peace that passeth all understanding to guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Let go of the the thing that really don’t matter, because you are choosing the things that do! Blessings to you, dear one!

  • Jessica
    December 7, 2011 at 10:22 am

    I’ve never been to New Orleans but it looks like a super fun city! That just might have to be on my list of places to go! Looks like you & hubby had a great time! I cannot believe that this is the first trip you’ve been on alone, sans kids. Shame on you, is right! πŸ˜‰

    Love your updates, Darby! I hope you & your family have a wonderful holiday…together!!!

  • JWK
    December 7, 2011 at 10:34 am

    I wish I was in the market for faucets and drawer pulls!!

  • Anna
    December 7, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Isn’t it funny-the awkwardness we (moms) feel when we’re alone? Good job venturing out by your big kid self! It’s hard to remember how to do things we enjoy without children on our hip! I’m glad you had a good time!

  • Lindsey A.
    December 7, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Wow! Looks like a great time! My husband’s family is from New Orleans and they lost his childhood home in Katrina. It’s such a treasure, and I love visiting there myself.

  • Janis Covington Stufflebean
    December 7, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    So proud of you for discovering the city. Years ago I made the same decisions when going to meetings with (my then husband). If I had a car I would venture out and if I got lost, oh well. One time while in Vegas I hailed (so fancy) a cab and went shopping at a fantastic mall. Hence, twenty-five years later I am so glad I explored..because this grandma of four just wants to stay home and love those babies!

  • Meredith
    December 7, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Yay!! I have missed your posts! How wonderful you were able to get away with your hubby! My husband and I have a three day trip planned to Arizona in January just the two of us for the first time in SIX years!! Long over due! Any holiday posts coming??

  • kathleen
    December 7, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    When I was about 16-years-old I went to Philadelphia to visit an aunt. The family owned business was on Market street. I set off on foot to explore the city. Alone. I did ride the public transportation and perhaps the fact it was in 1976 and the City of brotherly Love was preparing for the Bicentennial in July- well, I survived, I saw a great deal of History and it does build confidence –a savvy outgoing personality. As a journalism major in college and well, one has to have no problem striking up conversations with complete strangers– the key is to put them at ease– because I put them on guard–talking to strangers — what a novel idea. This year, we spent spring break exploring Huntsville Alabama– Rocket city –it is beautiful in the Spring. Old cities, er cities that appreciate their historical past and have a thriving mix such as Birmingham, Columbus, Ga, Chattanooga TN. all are a great Urban (Grace) Plan- for a visit. We knew you are enjoying this time of year– it is beautiful in LA.

  • Ann
    December 7, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Love the tree skirt! So cute! Where in the world did you find it?

  • Katie@ Noodle and Boof
    December 7, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    So fun! I have GOT to go to New Orleans soon. What a beautiful city. I haven’t been in years! So glad y’all enjoyed your weekend together. Thanksgiving looked fun too!

  • bevy
    December 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Now I want to visit New Orleans. I like old cities too and New Orleans looks like a great place to explore. I’m glad you and the hubby got some time to yourselves. It looks like a fun time with good food!

  • laura
    December 7, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    So fun to see an update! Gorgeous pictures as always. Since you guys are such big Auburn fans I thought I’d share a cool company out of GA who do cute sports capes for kids of all ages (even for the dads!). They’re giving away a youth one over on my blog!


  • michelle
    December 7, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    loved this post! Charlie and I have both been to New Orleans, but never together. Great memories of many trips there growing up…..your post is a nice reminder that he and I should plan a trip there soon πŸ™‚ Glad you both had a great time.

  • Nelle
    December 7, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    Oh my gosh you walked the heck out of NOLA! We loved Frenchman’s, and Lafitte’s and even went to Luke’s. We stayed at the Marriott across from the convention center and I know you were further down the street. Isn’t Magazine just the most amazing? The Garden District *I swoon*! I am sure your sister could shop for days as a designer in NOLA. Curious to learn what caused the bees to flee. Oh how I adore your bee stories. Happy Thanksgiving and hope there isn’t too much back and forth so you can rest in the coming of Christmas!

  • beki
    December 7, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    Oh, how I love that city! Next time you’re there, let me know – I’d love to meet up and explore with you (i’m not all that far away. i plan to spend the day there this friday). There’s always something there to explore!!

  • Katie
    December 7, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    Loved all your pictures of New Orleans. It has been a long time since I have been. Your pictures are making me want to go back πŸ™‚ I know living in 2 places at once or living in a town other than the one your husband is in is hard. We have done it too, but no longer than 3 or 4 months at a time. Praying for you & your family, hoping that you find a happy medium in between.

  • michelle
    December 8, 2011 at 12:24 am

    I read the part about not having been to an anthropologie 3 or 4 times, I could not believe it!!!!
    the trip to NO looked sooo fun! I want to go badly …..someday…..

  • mary frances price
    December 8, 2011 at 9:06 am

    I love reading about your precious family. I am from La . ,live in KC now, and my daughter and grandchildren are in NOLA. We are traveling quite often. I like to stay in the Hampton Inn on St Charles while in NOLA or rent a place from VRBO. You would love Orient Expressed on Magazine for your children.The Audubon Zoo,Aquarium and Insectarium are great for children. We spent Thanksgiving in NOLA and all ate at Ralph’s on the Park–by City Park. Inclosing, just wanted to say I enjoy your blog but always enjoy every minute of your children at this age—–these are simply fantastic years!

  • Maggie
    December 8, 2011 at 10:07 am

    I always enjoy your posts and look forward to them. Especially love your wonderful photographs. They help tell the story. I know it can be tough being divided between two homes. I’m going through that myself. My father died recently and I’m staying with my Mom half the week and my husband the other half. My husband is great. He comes over nearly every evening and makes dinner for he and my mother. By the time I get home to my mother’s house they’ve both had dinner and we have a nice visit. We decided to forgo putting a Christmas tree up at our house and instead have put one up at my mother’s. We are definately in the Christmas spirit. All the best, Maggie

  • joy
    December 8, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Great pics!! It looks like you had a great time on your little explore. I love those chairs!! My husband is deployed right now, through allllllll the holidays. πŸ™ Choosing to be together whenever you can is definitely the best idea, even if it does mean some craziness. (At least that’s our philosophy when we get to choose…)

  • Tara
    December 8, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Isn’t Magazine Street the best? Every time Fe takes me home with him, I always make him take me shopping and to eat on Magazine. Glad you two were able to get away and enjoy the city! Oh, and Nola is one of my favorite restaurants there!

  • Kelley
    December 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    So glad you had some time with your husband in such an awesome city!

    I used to travel a lot. Then we had three kids. Then when I was in New York last month I left my friends to go visit another friend in Brooklyn and found myself getting a little nervous on the subway…when I used to travel by myself ALL THE TIME! So good for you for getting out and about, finding beauty and inspiration!

    Hope you’re having a wonderful holiday!

  • Jessie Haynes
    December 9, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    I am a long time reader and former blogger. Sad, it was something that needed to go after I had my baby boy! Anyway, I am a proud lifelong New Orleanian and so glad you enjoyed your stay. You need to come back to make it all the way up Magazine, near the Park. You have TONS more shopping to do…in my opinion, the best Magazine has to offer. Also, tons of restaurants Uptown near that area for some unforgettable meals. We have so much more to offer here than Bourbon Street and I am so glad you had a chance to see that! Happy Holidays and please come back soon!

  • Andrea
    December 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    My husband and I just flew back from New Orleans on Monday! He grew up there and we go back a few times a year. I LOVE it! We took a trip without our son as well and it was a much needed “babymoon” as we are expecting another boy this March. You were definitely in the midst of a celebratory football weekend that is for sure! We went to the Saints game on Sunday and it was sooo much fun! Glad you were able to visit!

  • Kate@Daffodils
    December 9, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    So glad yall got a weekend away! We are having our first night away in about 2 years over christmas and I cant wait!

  • Shannon
    December 10, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    We lived in NOLA for 4 years when my hubby was in dental school. We haven’t been back much in the nearly 5 years that we’ve been gone. This made me miss it oh-so much. If you go back again, I dedicated four consecutive blogs back in March to the Big Easy. There’s plenty more great spots in the city to explore. Check it out…https://the-grooters-family.blogspot.com/2011/01/in-honor-of-mardi-gras.html