Beignets For Days, New Orleans

Having your friends live all across the country can be extremely hard and frustrating at times. The silver lining though, you never have to look far for an excuse to travel!

One of my best friends lives in Texas which means getting together takes a little bit of planning. This past fall I told her, rather than coming to one of our respective states, we should pack our bags and travel some place we’ve never been before. Or some place with island drinks. I’m really not that picky.

We bounced ideas back and forth, Bahamas, Jamaica, Florida? Until I finally said, what about New Orleans (a place that meets both of those requirements above, might I add). A few days later, our tickets were booked and I began quoting Princess and the Frog every time we talked (something that continued through our trip).

This past weekend, I rushed from work to the airport, hopped on a plane, took a an Uber ride from the airport in the middle of the night, collapsed in bed, only to wake up the next morning to  . . .

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Despite our late night flights, we set alarms early our first morning. We were on a mission. You’ll see why in a minute.

We stepped out on our terrace with big Cheshire Cat grins, tossed on the closest clothes we had and rushed down to the streets below.

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New Orleans is known for their lively night culture but I think the mornings are just as good!

The fog slowly clears away, artists start setting up, the streets are all but deserted and it feels like the whole city is yours.

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If you do want some signs of civilization, I’ll tell you where to go (it’s where we were headed).

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Cafe du Monde. The place to go in New Orleans.

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Known for having the best beignets and Cafe au Lait in New Orleans. The line will always be long and will always be worth it.

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Believe it or not, the line moves quickly. Before you know it, you’re ushered inside and a waitress will want your order before you can settle down. The menu is small, beignets, a choice of coffees and juices.

You’ll order and she’ll disappear like a phantom in the night.

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In a blink of an eye, she’ll be bearing down on you with a plate full of warm, fried, sugary pastries that make you drool just looking at them and big mugs of strong, chicory coffee.

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Maybe not the best date spot, if you’re easily embarrassed. It’s just a little messy.

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You know when you travel and everyone tells you there are certain places you absolutely must visit. When you do you realize that they’re sadly overrated and you’ve completely wasted your time? That is not Cafe du Monde. It is well worth the hype (and that’s not just the sugar rush talking)!

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Extremely happy with day so far, we left Cafe du Monde in the happiest of sugar-induced moods and strolled to our next adventure singing and dancing to Down in New Orleans.

Okay, that last part may have just been me but tell me you didn’t have that song stuck in your head the whole time you saw these photos. If you say you didn’t, I’ll know you’re lying.

Last Mountain Views, California

I still have one more day of California photos to post but, to tell you the truth, if I were a cartoon character, I’d be Doug from Up. To say I’m easily distracted is an understatement.

I finished How to be a Woman and just had to tell you about it, California photos completely forgotten! I know what you’re thinking, how could I possibly forget the mountains, I’ve only been going on and on about them on Instagram for weeks now!

Those mountains. They speak to me.

A photo posted by Caitlin (@wandererandwolf) on

That’s what a good book does to me though. I lose thought of everything else and I just have to talk about it with someone!

So, back to California . . .

On my last day, I woke up to a steady pitter-patter of rain against the window. Pajamas still on, I rolled out of bed and into a big squishy armchair by the crackling fire.

We had a lazy morning, not needing to talk but thoroughly enjoying each others company as we opened the windows to the rain, snuggled up by the fire.

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After coffee, we had a long, drawn out breakfast of smoothies, eggs, homemade bread and pancakes.

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All under the watchful supervision of Luna, who took to stealing freshly laundered clothes and dragging them onto the wet grass, at this point.

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When we finished breakfast, the rain had stopped and the sky was a dazzling blue, just waiting to be admired.

We went for a long walk up a trail by the house so I soak up every last minute of the warm weather and mountains before my late night flight.
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You know those moments of complete contentment? There’s nothing like it and for me, I felt that, standing high above the city, surrounded by mountains and standing next to one of the best people in my life.

When I had my fill, we headed back for a shower and a late lunch before I hopped on a plane home.

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When I moved from Chicago, I promised myself I would see more of the world. Something that’s still important to me but now, I want to revise that promise.

Spending the time seeing the world is not as important as who you spend the time with.

What really makes your time traveling spectacular is the people you spend that time with.

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What do you think? Do you have a favorite travel buddy? Do you care more about the designation or who you share it with?

How to Be a Woman

One of my goals for 2017 was to read more feminist literature.

I think it’s a common misconception when people talk about feminism to say “this is what it is”  and “this is what a feminist looks like” but it’s not true. Feminism is made up of so many parts and each part is made of further parts. A person can be a feminist but have different opinions about varying details.

That’s why I think it’s important to read feminist books, to understand where other’s are coming from who have beliefs similar or different from yours. I love that moment when you believe something and have a difficult time articulating it, then read something that perfectly encompasses your thoughts!

Even more important, I enjoy reading the thoughts of people with different opinions of mine. To use that as an opportunity to question why you believe what you do and to strengthen your worldview by better understanding where other people are coming from.

A long intro to lead up to this: I read my first feminist book of the year and I loved it!

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If you haven’t read “How to be a Woman” by Caitlin Moran, I can’t recommend it enough!

Moran doesn’t shy away from controversial topics. In fact, she tackles them head on with a tongue in cheek humor that will make you continue reading until you come back to reality and realize you thought you’ve only been reading for 10 minutes but have actually been gone gone for double your allotted lunch break time.

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There were chapters that made my laugh out loud, chapters that I continued thinking about well after I put the book down and chapters I cringed when reading.

I agreed with many of the topics she wrote about and disagreed with some as well but used that disagreement to think through why I disagree and where my opinion came from.

I put some of my favorite quotes up on Goodreads but I’ll leave you with my favorite:

“It really is important you say these words out loud. “I AM A FEMINIST.” If you feel you cannot say it—not even standing on the ground—I would be alarmed. It’s probably one of the most important things a woman will ever say: the equal of “I love you,” Is it a boy or a girl?” or “No! I’ve changed my mind! I don’t want bangs!” – Caitlin Moran

If you haven’t read it, give it a try and let me know what you think!

Tequila(!) on The Lake, California

After a morning of adventuring, one thing was needed as the afternoon started turning to evening: tequila! Did you hum along and then yell it? If not, just leave this page now.

I mentioned a few posts ago how I’m now a believer that the sky in California is different than anywhere else in the world. The blues in the morning and the vibrant colors when the sun sets are beautiful beyond words. My favorite time though, late afternoon.

After Balboa Island, I hadn’t had enough of the warm California air, the beautiful mountains and especially that sky. I was told there was a perfect place to go and enjoy all of it.

A little Mexican restaurant, Hacienda, right on the Mission Viejo lake with incredible food and an even better view.

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The patio is the perfect place to settle in and watch the afternoon sink away into evening.

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Margarita in hand, obviously.

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It goes without saying that a margarita isn’t complete without a side of fresh, homemade guacamole to nibble on with it.

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The face of a very, very happy girl.

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Fresh guac, margaritas and mountains. What more could you want out of life?

 

Balboa Island, California

After a night of dreaming of the California sky, I woke to howling outside my door – I don’t think I can ever go back to a normal alarm clock again.

A cup of coffee and a few rounds of fetch later, I was whisked out the door and headed back along coast.

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This time, to Balboa Island. A small island by Newport (is all the California knowledge you soaked up when watching Laguna Beach rushing back) that just happens to be the perfect spot for an early morning walk and spot of breakfast.

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You can walk along the waters edge, watching boats float lazily in the harbor, while kids play in the sand and early morning walkers speed past you, high ponies bopping.

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Or, if you’re like me, you can grab a seat and relax with the sun on your face and with the sound of the waves slowly lapping against the shore all around you.

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When the sound of your stomach growling becomes louder than the waves, you can head inland to the cutest downtown area you’ve ever seen.

Rows and rows of stores, markets, restaurants and ice cream stands. You really can’t ask for more.

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We grabbed a pastry and a smoothie and sat back, watching car after car of tourist pile onto the island.

As the streets started to crowd, we left downtown to zig zag through the residential streets (all named after gemstones, naturally).

Having a huge snow storm in Michigan a few weeks before I left, I could not get enough of these pastel homes, basking in the warm California sunshine with fake, sparkly snow  out front.

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The houses are incredibly close to their neighbors and deceivingly small.

What you think is a cute, tiny cottage from the front, turns out to be a large mansion as you walk past. If you like window shopping, especially house window shopping, this is the place for you!

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You’ll think you found your new favorite dream house . . . until you head over and see what’s on the next street.

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As the morning ended and the island started crowding, we hopped in the car and headed home to the face we knew would be waiting in the window.

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Waking up this morning to a fierce wind and a temperature of 10 degrees makes me miss mornings in the sun something fierce!

I don’t know if I could ever get used to a warm Christmas though. What do you think? Is it something you can easily get used to?

La Jolla, California

I woke up early the next morning to howling outside my door. I shot up in bed, thinking something was wrong with Lupin (when he’s in bed, he’s lazier than me). It took me a minute to realize where I was and who was howling.

Let me introduce you to Lupin’s cousin, Luna.

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A sharp as a tack, golden puppy. She and I became fast friends and she would howl at my bedroom door in the morning when she wanted me to get up and play with her.

Who could possibly say no to this face?

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Besides, this is why coffee was invented, right?

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A few rounds of ball later, we dragged her with us on a quick second (third) cup of coffee run.

She was obviously thrilled.

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Caffeine jitters kicking in and with a quick kiss on the nose . . .

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We left Luna to protect the house from squirrels while we jumped in the car and drove to La Jolla, a town in San Diego located right on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.

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My Aunt insisted La Valencia is the place to go in La Jolla and, as always, she was spot on.

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Chandeliers draped in feathers and jewels, large flower arrangements, colorful Christmas trees and balloons anxiously awaiting to drop on guests’ heads for the new year.

La Valencia is the absolute place to go for a luxuriously indulgent good time.

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The painting . . . I mean window (can you believe that!) isn’t half bad either.

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Fifty shades of blue

A photo posted by Caitlin (@wandererandwolf) on

If you love  good wander, La Jolla is the spot for you. There is absolutely no shortage of people watching and little shops to pop in and out of.

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If people watching isn’t your thing, you can pop through the shops and count the infinite number of hues of blues that stretch far beyond the horizon.

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For lunch, we headed down to Acquavite.

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Italian food is my absolute favorite. There’s something just magical about sitting down with a big glass of wine, good friends and plate after plate of rich, flavorful food.

So know how serious I am when I say the meal at Acquavite has to be one of the best Italian meals I’ve had this side of the Atlantic. I honestly believe you won’t go wrong, no matter what you order.

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The view isn’t half bad either.

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As twinkle lights began to replace the sun, we rushed to the car and sped along the coast back to Laguna to meet an old college friend for a glass of wine.

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As we drove around the day I arrived in California, my Aunt said to me “you know Caitlin, the sky is just different here. I don’t know why, it’s just different and I love it” as we drove home that night with the ocean on one side and the mountains on the other, I couldn’t help but think she’s right.

The sky is different in California.

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From Snow to Sun, California

Happy New Year! Don’t you just love the start of a new year? To me, it’s like crawling into a freshly laundered bed or opening a new book for the first time.

A clean slate where you can think about what you want out of life and step back and appreciate what you have.

2016 was a rough year for me and I was very much looking forward to the new year. So much so, I jumped the gun and started working on my 2017 goals  before 2016 ended.

That’s why, right after Christmas, I found my head in the clouds and zooming across the country to visit some of my favorite people.

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My first day in California was very laid-back. Family sitting around, talking over one another in excitement to catch up.

I didn’t even think for a second to pull out my camera because I was so caught up in everything until evening started rolling in and the sun began to go down, illuminating the lemon trees lining the yard.

Nothing quite says you’re on the other side of the country quite like the sun illuminating a fruit tree, is there?

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As the sky turned to gold, we drove home only to be greeted by the best welcoming party a girl could ask for.

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We sank down by the fire, big glass of red in our hands and chatted until our throats were sore.

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I’m pretty sure I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

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I have so many California photos to share with you, I can’t wait but I just had to share my few snaps from my first day with the family.

There really is something so special about being so wrapped up in someone’s presence you forget to pull out a camera!

 

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

Can you believe today is the last day of 2016? This has been simultaneously the longest and fastest year I’ve had yet.

Part of me is extremely happy to say goodbye to 2016 and the other part of me doesn’t want to let it go. I’m trying to focus on the former.

I do always look forward to a new year. An excuse for a clean slate.

I’m not a big fan of resolutions but I am of goals.

For 2017 mine are:

Read more feminist literature

I’m a big believer that the best way to fight ignorance is with knowledge. It’s important to read as much as you can, not to blindly accept others opinion but to hear the arguments and use your knowledge to form your own opinion.

When you think about it, nothing kills an ignorant argument quite like a well researched, thought-out, educated counter argument.

I’ll be documenting what I read on Good Reads. 

I'm FINALLY on Good Reads! Have any good book recommendations? http://bit.ly/2hX8bvk

A photo posted by Caitlin (@wandererandwolf) on

Spend more time in downtown Detroit

If you haven’t heard about all the wonderful things happening in Detroit, you should really look into it. Between shops, restaurants, bars, stadiums and the Q-Line, Detroit is the place to be.

If you don’t live in Michigan and you’re looking for a great trip this spring, think about Detroit!

Good morning from Detroit ✌🏼️

A photo posted by Caitlin (@wandererandwolf) on

Travel to visit my favorites

I’m lucky enough to have some pretty incredible people in my life. Unluckily, they’re spread all across the world.

2016 was a busy year and I didn’t have much chance to travel and see them. 2017 will change that.

"We're all stories in the end. . . "

A photo posted by Caitlin (@wandererandwolf) on

Tell me, do you believe in New Years resolutions? Goals? What are yours for 2017?

A very happy new year to all you out there reading this! I have big hopes for 2017 for all of us! I think it will be the best year yet, for all of us!

Mint Kiss Cookie Recipes

Can you believe the holidays are over? Even more, can you believe there’s only a few days left of 2016? Where has the time gone!

For those of you wanting to send 2016 off in style, I’m sure you have a slew of parties lined up and I’m guessing that a few of those are potluck parties.

Fear not, I have the perfect recipe for you.

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A treat that utilizes holiday flavors, small enough to pop and colorful enough to fit right in when the ball drops.

You will need:

  • 10 TBS Butter
  • 1 C Sugar
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • 3 tsp Vanilla
  • Holiday Dot Sprinkles
  • 1 1/2 C Flour
  • 3/4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • Peppermint Kisses

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Preheat ove to 350 degrees

Cream butter and sugar with paddle attachment on medium speed

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Add egg yolks and vanilla

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Add flour 1/2 C at a time while mixing on medium speed

Add baking powder and salt

Roll into balls (about TBS large) and roll in sprinkles

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Bake for 9 minutes – while baking, remove foil from kisses

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Immediately add kisses to the center of the cookies

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For the kisses to keep their shape, place cookies in the freezer right away for a few minutes. If you’re like me and want them melted a bit, put them in the fridge for about 5 minutes and then the freezer for about 5 minutes.

Let the cookies thaw a bit, arrange on a sparkly plate and serve with a glass of champagne.

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The perfect party treat. After all, who doesn’t love peppermint and sprinkles?