April 8, 2013

I Heart NOLA

Alright, let's talk about our trip, shall we? As I mentioned previously, hubby David and I recently had our first solo vacation opportunity and we spent it in a place that is near and dear to our hearts: New Orleans, Louisiana. You may remember that this is also where we spent our "weddingmoon" in 2008 after our beautiful private ceremony at Oak Alley Plantation, so it was nice to revisit some of the same places after nearly five years, and discover some new ones as well.

Let me just start by saying that this trip would not have been a remote possibility without my fantastic and generous in-laws, who not only sponsored my flight, but also moved into our home and watched our two darling children for the week we were gone. Seriously, if you can swing it, I highly recommend finding a partner with such supportive and amazing parents! I'm a lucky girl, I know.

I had a bit of a rough start when I thought I would miss my connection at DFW on the way down there, as I had just a 50 minute layover there and we left Seattle over an hour late due to some mysterious "maintenance issues". Thankfully a combination of fast flying by the captain and the fact that there were 19 of us on the flight that needed to make the connection meant that they were able to hold our next flight just 15 minutes for us and it was enough for us to squeeze in. Hallelujah too, because I'm pretty confident that I would have spent the night at DFW crying my eyes out!

I spent that second, shorter flight from Dallas to New Orleans laughing through a few episodes of New Girl, because at this point I was missing my babies pretty hard. I needed a pick-me-up and those crazy kids are just the ticket! By the time I landed I was in much better spirits and ready to enjoy myself and my week of vacation.

And while this trip wasn't pure pleasure, as David was there on work business to begin with, we still managed to squeeze in our fair share of fun and excitement. Here are the highlights:

1) The FOOD! Of course, New Orleans has a world-famous food culture, and we love to eat, so we got along just fine. We ate lots of seafood, like the platter of fried goodness below, which included shrimp, crawfish, stuffed crab, catfish, calamari, AND oysters. It was sinful and delicious, and you can get your own at Mulate's. Bring a friend or two, or plan not to eat for a day or so afterward (which would be a shame in NOLA).

Mulate's Cajun Seafood Platter

We also enjoyed a more refined meal at Root one evening, where fresh and local meet up with decadent housemade charcuterie, and innovation and playfulness are the name of the game. Take our appetizer, for example, pictured below. It was the Ménage à Foie, featuring foie gras three ways. The "Foielly Pop" is the fluffy thing you see there on the right, and it's a little chilled taste of foie gras on a stick, coated in Pop Rocks (yes, I said Pop Rocks), then spun with savory cotton candy. A second foie gras preparation that evening was foie gras "dippin' dots"- just like actual ice cream dippin' dots, but made with foie gras. I forget what the third was, but it was delicious too! The whole thing was totally bizarre and interesting, and this meal was a once in a lifetime experience from beginning to end. I highly recommend a trip to Root if you visit New Orleans.

I won't tell you about my main course that night because I don't want to make anyone ill, but trust me when I say that it was actually delicious, despite how it sounds. If you're curious, you might be able to identify what I ate by visiting the Root dinner menu and picking out the one item under Principals that you would never, ever order, because OMG, GROSS! Yup. That's what I had, at the server's suggestion. She claimed that it was her favorite item on the menu, and after two Abita Ambers, I felt just bold enough to take her up on her challenge. Never again, but like I said, it was a once in a lifetime meal.

In addition to many, many more brews by Abita, we also had the requisite muffalleta at Serio's, beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde, barbecue shrimp at Mister B's Bistro, and lunch at Butcher over the course of the week. We didn't have a disappointing meal, and I can strongly recommend a trip to New Orleans if you just want to eat your way around a city for a week or so.

2) The MUSIC! The only thing better than the food scene in New Orleans is the music scene. We spent our evenings on Frenchman Street because Bourbon Street is chaos, and smells like a port-a-potty all the time. We enjoyed lots of live music from all different types of entertainers, and I love that you can just wander up and down the streets, stopping to stick your head in a club or restaurant or bar when you hear something interesting drifting out (which is often).

We also met Rob Thomas out one night at DBA, which was exciting for me because I'm a big Matchbox Twenty fan. The band also played at the closing party for the show David was working on, and we were able to attend that as well. I struck out on my own during the set and wormed my way up to about fifteen feet from the stage and enjoyed a musical trip back to my early twenties. They played a nice mix of songs from the older albums that everyone knows and loves, as well as some new stuff from North. I had a great time at the show, and knowing that 24 hours before I had shook Rob's hand and told him that I appreciated his music made it even better.

Apologies for the crappy phone pic. But look! Rob Thomas!


I googled for fabric stores before I left for New Orleans, and thank heavens I found Promenade Fabrics. I was hoping to find somewhere special to treat myself to something for my recently celebrated 33rd birthday, and I did! This place was a real deal apparel fabric store. There was not a thread of quilting cotton in sight- nor polar fleece, or felt, or anything other than beautiful, high quality European gems. I could have spent hours in there, chatting with the owner and touching everything in sight.

Just one small corner of this not large store.
It was stacked to the ceiling with fabric all around!

It would have been just my style to get so overwhelmed by all the beautiful options at Promenade that I just left with nothing, so I was thankful that I went in with kind of a plan in mind. See, when I packed for my trip, I ended up following a bit of a capsule wardrobe plan, and I found that sticking with a color palette really helped me narrow down my clothing options to a manageable selection. I'm a notorious over-packer, and could have easily brought an extra 40 pounds worth of stuff I would have never worn or used if not for this plan. I kept to a basic color palette of black, white, kelly green, red, and dark denim. Then it was easy to bring only a handful of shoes (black and gold, flats and heels) and basic accessories (green, black, and gold) that went with everything, and I didn't have to worry about my bag not matching or dealing with a million different jewelry options jumbled in my cosmetics bag.

Cases of buttons.

So, with my palette in mind, it was easy to shop and find a few special pieces of fabric that I could bring home that I knew that I would use and would have mileage in my wardrobe. I think it's really a great way of thinking about my closet that I have never done before that will serve me well in the future, whether shopping for fabric or ready-to-wear items. I have to credit the sewing blogosphere for planting this bug in my brain, through the many palette challenges such as those on the Coletterie, and Steph's expositions on color that got me thinking about my clothes in this way.

Tons of ribbons and trims.

I ended up with three pieces of fabric, plus two lining materials, and I'm terribly happy with my choices. It was a bit challenging for me to pay full price, as I'm so accustomed to shopping the clearance bin; but as I said, it was a special treat for myself and I was pretty confident that I was making good choices, so that made it a bit easier to part with my birthday money. Plus, I was happy to support this small but thriving shop and the delightful owner Herbert, who credited "us twenty-somethings" with the resurgence of the sewing industry. Having been in the business for 45 years, he has seen a lot of change, obviously, and it was nice to know that at least in some places in the country, small shops like this are safe and prosperous! But anyway- wanna see what I got?

First up is a beautiful piece of Jones New York stretch cotton sateen. It's 97% cotton, 3% spandex, and just the perfect weight for a great statement coat, I think. I'm in love with Gail's recent take on Burda 7072, so I picked that pattern up once I got home, and as soon as I can work up the nerve to cut my fabric, that's my plan for this piece. Herbert also suggested a lovely satiny white slightly stretchy lining, which is what you see on the right in the photo below. 

I'm really excited, but also so nervous to make this! I really want it to be a classic item that I will wear for a long time, so of course I want it to be perfect and fit me just right. I'm thinking the longer sleeves, and I'm completely torn on the collar. I think I might make it and decide in the process- hopefully that's not something I have to decide on right at the outset? Ack. I've never made a coat before, but Gail said in her post that she thinks it's an appropriate first jacket choice, so I'm going for it. Someday.

This next piece below is the most expensive yardage I've ever purchased. Ever. Hands down. Herbert said it's silk jersey and I hope that the worms got at least a small cut of the $28/yard that it cost me. This fabric has definitely got a lustrous finish, a slightly nubby texture, and it's a nice weight. I'll make a dress from it, but I can't decide what pattern to use. I want it to be special, but not too special, you know what I mean? Classic, and wearable, and something that I can wear long enough to justify the price!

Finally, I picked up this lightweight cotton and a plain white batiste to underline it with. I photographed it with the lining beneath it because it's just slightly sheer. Maybe it's voile? I love the large scale floral, and the colors. This will be a summery dress- maybe a Lonsdale? Or a Parfait? I'm not sure yet. With all these big flowers, I feel like it has to be just the right pattern to take full advantage of them.

I almost went back to Promenade Fabrics a second day, because I remembered catching a glimpse of a whole shelf full of remnants, and that's totally my thing. I refrained, however, figuring that I had spent enough and had enough textile memories to work with for this time around. I'll be sure to visit again when I return to the city though, and I suggest if you're heading that way you do the same!

So there's my trip to NOLA in a nutshell. It was so weird traveling without the kids, and waking up and having nothing- literally NOTHING- to do was completely bizarre. I even read a real book for the first time in a while- an actual paper, checked out of the library book- not one on my kindle. That was fun! I sat around by the pool and walked around downtown while David worked in the mornings, and generally just enjoyed having no obligations. Of course, I missed the babies, and it was a really rough show for David, but all in all, I think it was a smashing success. I already can't wait to go back!

Have you been to New Orleans? Do you love it as much as I do? What would you make with those fabrics?