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Vacation Redux

We’re back from our road trip and happy to be reunited with our crazy dogs and quiet house. In truth, the Florida part of the trip was a partial fail. The beaches are beautiful, but crowded. I forgot how sand gets in everything! I think I’m more of a hammock girl. While we encountered some really nice people in Destin, there’s a weird vibe with a lot of the women. Kind of a high school ranking system kind of feel. Very very odd. It’s also very conservative. We got a little tired of being assaulted by Fox News, which always seemed to be playing in the hotel when we were having breakfast. Hi, would you like some Obama bashing with your eggs? Dude, they even do that crap on the morning shows on Fox. Fox News is about as unbiased as a Michael Moore movie.

All that aside, we did get to relax and spend time together. We watched about 20 hours of HGTV. We also got together with an old friend, which was really nice. But we both wished we’d spent less nights in Florida and more in New Orleans.

I just love New Orleans. Yes, there are some signs of economic recovery there, but there are a lot of signs that the city is struggling as well. Hotels are cheap! You can stay in almost any hotel in town for about $150 per night or less. Some of my favorite restaurants had closed, but the old standbys are still there, and there are some great new places as well. Check out my reviews on Yelp if you want to read about what and where we ate.

We also took the Honey Island Swamp Tour. I took it about ten years ago and loved it. The focus was very much on the ecology of the swamp, and we explored a lot of bayous and saw some cool stuff. This time it was pretty different. The tour guide (different guy) stayed mainly on the river, which kind of sucked for certain kinds of photo op. However, he was very popular with the alligators, and we got to see a couple of them very close up. One of the bonuses of the trip is the drive to Slidell. The guy who drives the van gives you a ton of interesting information on the trip there and back about New Orleans history, architecture, Katrina, and much more. It’s a really good tour.

I did a fair amount of photography in the French Quarter, and learned some lessons about how to shoot architecture: either straight on, or at a significant angle. Duh. So not all my shots came out that great, but since we took about 350, there are still a few good ones in the lot. As always, check my flickr page for the full set, a few excerpts below and in the coming weeks.

Honey Island Swamp

Friendly Gator

Honey Island Swamp

Say hello to my leeetle friend.

Honey Island Swamp

Honey Island Swamp

New Orleans

Jackson Square

New Orleans, French Quarter

Beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde. Delicious.

French Quarter

Vieux Carre

More Beach

Yesterday we explored a bit east of Destin in search of a less populous (re: less drunk people) beach. We ended up at Grayton Beach which is a state park.

White Sand Florida Panhandle

It was seriously pristine. The water was lovely and incredibly clear. You could see little fish of different sorts swimming around, even close to shore. This area also has some really cool preserved sand dunes, that people have to stay off of:

White Sand Florida Panhandle

Today is our last day in Florida, tomorrow morning we head to New Orleans to try and eat as much food as humanly possible in two days. Wish us luck!

Road Trip!

The drive to Florida went surprisingly well, although it took about two hours longer that it was supposed to. Thanks, horrible traffic in Baton Rouge! We spent most of yesterday chilling and getting the lay of the land. Destin is kind of sprawling, and we didn’t make it to the beach until the evening:

DSC_9254

The beach is seriously pretty. The water is perfect. They’re also very crowded, so we may try and search out a more remote location to sunbathe, since neither of us loves crowds. David is off diving today, sans camera, so I’m blogging a bit, and napping a bit. I’m about to go out in search of a beach umbrella.

New stuff coming

We’re leaving tomorrow on a road trip to Destin, Florida and New Orleans. Of course, we’re bringing cameras and computers. What are we, cavemen? So I hope to update fairly frequently. Still debating if I should load Photoshop on my laptop so I can edit raw. I know, I’m insane. See, I shoot jpg with my D40, and raw with my D300. If this makes no sense to you, that’s a good thing. Anyway, I could still upload lots of interesting pics without dipping into the hundreds of raw photos I predict we’ll take. Hell, it’s vacation. Maybe I’ll NOT spend most hours editing photos painstakingly and making my wrist sore. That would be groovy!

So stay posted, there should be some interesting new stuff soon.

Belated Update

A few weeks ago David and I took a short vacation in the hill country. We stayed at a farm near Blanco, called Juniper Hills Farm. It was just what we needed – remote, peaceful, quiet, packed with plants and wildlife (there was a bird convention out our window) and included tasty baked goods. The little cabins have microwaves and fridges, so if you’re resourceful, you can pack enough food in to avoid having to go out for all your meals. They also provide you with milk, juice, granola, snack mix, and hot baked goods in the morning.

I brought enough food to feed us for a week (we only stayed two nights), and discovered that all the non-chocolate products were in low demand. I did manage to kludge together dinner the first night thusly:


Kohlrabi Goat-Cheese Prosciutto Pasta

8 oz farfalle
1 lb kohlrabi (roots only)
1/2 c goat cheese
garlic
olive oil
salt
pepper

Pre-cook the pasta, drain, rinse with cool water, and lightly toss with olive oil to keep from sticking. Peel and cube the kohlrabi, and toss with minced garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast on a parchment-covered cookie sheet for about 40 min (give or take) until soft and lightly golden.

To construct pasta: reheat both the pasta and the kohlrabi in the microwave. Layer thusly: pasta, crumbled goat cheese, kohlrabi, and finely sliced proscuitto or serrano ham, two slices per plate.

Nom!

We also went to Pedernales Falls, wandered around Wimberly, and had lunch at the the Silver K Cafe in Johnson City. It was a cool place, and the food was very tasty. And now, the photos.

at Juniper Hills
View from the window of our cabin.

at Juniper Hills
Juniper

at Juniper Hills
There were lavender patches covered with butterflies.

At Juniper Hills Farm
Also, donkeys!

at Juniper Hills
Lavender

at Juniper Hills
Husband relaxing.

At Juniper Hills Farm

Pedernales Falls
Pedernales Falls

Back in Pink

I traveled to Santa Barbara two weeks ago for my grandmother’s memorial. And then I went again last weekend for the funeral of a close friend’s mother. That makes eight flights in 1.5 weeks (counting the connecting ones). I am so tired of flying that David and I have decided to road trip for our annual vacation this year. Many photo opportunities…

I dislike American Airlines because they treat you like an annoying inconvenience. There’s got to be something in the corporate culture that encourages the flight crew to behave with total indifference towards the passengers. But it turns out Delta and USAir are worse. Stinky, hot planes (and mostly grumpy employees). It might be cold on AA, but at least it’s clean and usually competent. I’m just fed up with flying in general. AA charged me for checking a tiny suitcase both ways on my second trip. And here’s the thing — we’re a captive audience. They can cut services, raise prices, whatever, as long as the market will bear it. And because we have no other choice for long distance travel, we’ll bear a lot. The only thing that would really get people to stop flying would be major safety issues. So we put up with the bumped flights and the lack of food and the hidden charges and myriad more discomforts, because it only takes half a day to get to the other side of the country.

All that being said, there were some nice things about the two trips. I got to eat several meals prepared by Chef Shaun, my genius foodie brother, and assorted pastries cooked by my mother the baker. This also gave me the opportunity to work on my food photography:

This is mixed greens with a lychee ginger dressing, with cucumber wrapped summer roll containing tuna sashimi, tempura plantain and shitake mushrooms, and lettuce. Garnished with edible flower confetti.

Prime rib (expertly cooked by my dad), celery root white truffle mash garnished with a roasted baby potato stuffed with garlic clove, horseradish mustard green beans and butter-brown sugar carrots.

Miss Maxine works on a biscotto.

This is Shaun rolling a home made waffle cone which we ate with homemade vanilla bean ice cream that had bits of my mom’s chipotle brownies mixed in.

Which is best enjoyed with one of Shaun’s killer cappuccinos.

Getting Shaun out of bed early enough to make a cappuccino to enjoy with one of my mom’s legendary sticky buns, not as easy.

Hungry yet?

The first weekend I was there David came with me and we went for a walk on my favorite beach and got some cool snaps:


Flowers growing out of the beach cliffs.

There are about a million more pictures on my flickr page. So now I’m in recovery from all that traveling, food, and photography. Which includes, in my case, a nasty cold, just when I’d rather be exercising about four hours a day to atone (re: not grow out of my jeans) for all the great food I ate.

Hope everyone is having a safe and fun long weekend! I’m going back to sleep.