Monday, January 31, 2011

Fun With Lenses

I dusted off the 50mm/1.8 Canon lens in response to some early morning sunshine on Saturday. Luz was sitting at the kitchen table playing with an awesome book that folds out into a dollhouse that her Aunt Susan gave her a few years ago. This gift has been a HUGE hit, but Luz is the type of kid that can entertain herself quietly for hours playing with paper dolls. One of my favorite things to do is to pretend like I am busy doing something - cleaning, working, cooking - while I am actually eavesdropping. Saturday morning it was all about unrequited love and a young woman with a ton of sick babies. Heartbreaking but also hopeful.

I could not resist a few shots:

I love using this lens. I have so much to learn about photography. Most decent shots I get are pure luck. I look forward to studying it later in my life when I have free time. Until then, I will just keep shooting for the lucky shots.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Kettle Corn

It feels like it is becoming a habit...Saturday morning trips to the farmer's market to pick up some fresh winter produce...and we end up leaving with a bag of popcorn the size of James and it always results in tears over who gets to hold the bag. I gave up at one point on Saturday and I am certain there was a trail of popcorn for a few blocks in the warehouse district. I hope birds like popcorn.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Our Weekend

Nana, Papa-T and Liam arrived minutes after we got home Friday afternoon and Luz and Liam got ready for Fantastic Mr. Fox at the CAC. I stayed home with James, much to his dismay, and was bummed to miss out on this event after hearing about it. Luz and Liam talked about it all weekend and I still have only a vague notion of what it is they are doing over there. There is no doubt that it is something incredible - it left an impression. If you have a kid and live in or near NOLA I suggest checking it out. I have plans to catch it before the already extended run finally ends. Here is a link in case you would like to know more:

On Saturday morning after a lovely but rather cold long run (yes indeed, I am still planning to run the Mardi Gras 1/2 Marathon in a few short weeks) we bundled the kids up and headed to Storyland and City Park. Luz and James are always entertained at Storyland and I think Liam had fun running and climbing. But I think the kids would have had fun anywhere as long as they were together.

The kids, still for just a second at the rocket ship:

Taking a snack break and feeding ducks at City Park:

We headed to the French Quarter for lunch at Masperos, thinking there would not be many people out since it was so cold. We were wrong. The FQ was packed and the Masperos line was daunting. We made it though, with the help of Angry Birds and other cell phone games. What did we do to distract impatient kids before cell phones? Brief sidenote : I saw someone's post on FB today that commented on a study about 2-5 year olds and iphones - something to the effect of "90% of 2-5 year olds can operate an iphone and only 9% can tie shoelaces". My children fit squarely within that stat - is that a bad thing? Does one really need to know how to tie shoelaces by age 5?

On Saturday night we took Nana and Papa-T to dinner to celebrate Richmond's birthday. We met up at Cure for pre-dinner cocktails. I love this place, especially in the evening before it gets too crowded and loud. After a few drinks we headed to Cafe Atchafalaya for dinner and we were a big enough group to merit our own room, the poker room. I had not been to Atchafalaya since before Hurricane Katrina...I know. My dinner (I actually did not have an entree and opted for two smaller plates - the soup du jour, which was a tomato soup, and a roasted beet salad, because I cannot ever resist) was delicious and I think everyone had a great time.

We spent most of Sunday morning at the zoo. We go to the zoo frequently and yet it is big enough that it is like a new experience every time. We usually head straight to the monkeys/chimps/gorillas but on Sunday we hit the swamp exhibit and I loved it. The alligators were in hiding, which was a bit disappointing, but there were plenty of other cool things to check out.

I do not know what it is that compels kids to climb on these bronze sculptures, it is certainly not the first idea that crosses my mind when I see them:

Liam and Papa-T:

They enjoyed pulling James in the wagon and later James enjoyed pulling them - he is crazy strong:

With Nana:

On the train, for James:

Dynamic Duo:

The weekend ended with a trip to Tipitina's to listen to some Cajun music, watch the dancers, and maybe even learn a little. I have always been curious about this Sunday night phenomenon and was impressed. It seems to be a close-knit group of really lovely people who love and respect Cajun music and dance. I felt privileged to have a glimpse into what is obviously a very special part of their lives.

At Tip's, they were pretty much done at this point but I was determined to catch Liam's first time in a bar:

All in all we had a lovely couple of days. It was a much needed distraction on the heels of a few weeks of sad news about people we know, though not well, which served as yet another reminder that what we are doing here (whatever it is) is being done on borrowed time and that none of "this" is permanent. It is the gut-wrenching reality that leads me to cherish every moment and appreciate the simplicity of a beautiful weekend spent watching my children make the happiest of memories by doing nothing more than having fun with the people they love.

Monday, January 24, 2011


My Monday started out bleak, literally. The sun did not rise and the gray clouds hung around, threatening a massive rainstorm which did not occur until 6:00 p.m. Consequently, my eyes never quite opened and my brain never started to work and all of that on top of an early morning dental appointment and office-wide computer problems all day long amounted to a most Monday-esque Monday. I returned home to a couple of incredibly mopey kids muttering about how much they missed Nana, Papa-T and Liam after having them around all weekend. I know how they feel; I miss them as well.

Here is a little glimpse of our started with Fantastic Mr. Fox at the CAC and ended with Cajun dancing at Tipitina's...a perfect NOLA weekend!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Le Artiste

This morning things were unusually quiet during the mad scramble that occurs between 7:15 and 7:45 a.m. as breakfasts are gobbled, heads of hair are brushed, mouths are wiped clean, and knapsacks are stuffed. It was so quiet, in fact, that Christian and I both sort of knew something had to be up. Sure enough, as Christian rounded the corner into the living room he saw just what it was that had kept James so quiet:

He was so proud of his artwork and eager for our gushing approval, but, understandably, it just was not there. It was one of those moments where you want to crack up and also pull your hair out at the same time, but what really should happen is that you take the opportunity to convey the idea that one shouldn't just color all over anything and everything. I think that point was sort of lost on James, lost amid the clapping and cheering and self-congratulatory behavior. He is, after all 2.

The good news is that this has happened before and I have a replacement cover that Nana and Papa-T picked up for me at Ikea. And yeah, I can see that this chair cover had problems long before James went all Jackson Pollack on it, but still. I am no fool though...I am not changing this one out until after Mardi Gras.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Northshore Excursion

James, Luz and I spent Saturday morning in Covington. We stopped off at my friend Julian's house to check out their incredible post-Katrina renovations (yes, we had not seen them yet - amazing how fast time flies) and visit. We ended up at the farmer's market, which was lovely, and then checked out one of the most incredible playgrounds I have ever seen (and there are some incredible playgrounds in suburban Atlanta).

The kids had a great time eating warm, sugary brioche and kettle corn and chasing each other around the playground. The only challenging part of the adventure happened right around nap time as we were in the middle of the Causeway and James decided he had had enough of his car seat. Yikes.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Luz decided she wanted to grow her hair out. I was reluctant at first because it is a constant battle reminding her to keep her hair out of her face. I now understand why my mom always used to complain when my hair was not pulled back - how do you see? how do you expect people to see you? - it drives me mad. I am constantly putting headbands in Luz's hair and begging her not to remove my handiwork. I have barrettes strategically located throughout the house, in my purse, in the car, just in case. But lately the battle has subsided a little and she is starting to ask for ponytails and then just the other day she asked for braids...I wasn't sure if I could do it - a combination of the lack of length and faith in my ability. It worked least for a little while:

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Best of 2010

I am a bit late in posting this list, but I still have trouble remembering to write 2011 when writing the date, so I guess we are not yet too deep into 2011.

So, here it is, in no particular order, for any of you interested in checking out the music that was in heavy rotation in our house/cars/ears over the last 12 months:

1. Home - Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zone
2. Me and the Moon - The Drums
3. Zorbing - Stornoway*
4. Tighten Up - The Black Keys
5. Dreaming of Another World - Mystery Jets
6. Georgia - Band of Horses
7. Despedida - Julietta Venegas
8. Thieves - She & Him
9. Golden Sky - The Holidays
10. Wait Up - Tokyo Police Club
11. The High Road - Broken Bells
12. Down By the Water - The Decembrists
13. The Cave - Mumford & Sons**
14. Winter in the Hamptons - Josh Rouse
15. Lover of Mine - Beach House
16. Kaleidoscope - James
17. Run From the Gun - Dead Confederate
18. Fixed - Stars
19. Bombay - El Guincho
20. Something Good Can Work - Two Door Cinema Club
21. Undertow - Warpaint

* Probably my favorite tune from the list
** Probably my favorite artist from the list


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How It All Ranks

When it was just the two of us, Christian and me, there was plenty of time for all sorts of self-indulgent behavior, none of which I appreciated to the fullest at the time. Loki came along a few years later and things changed a little but, for the most part, there was still plenty of free time and flexibility. Luz was a smooth enough transition, well, if you overlook the whole Katrina thing. There was still free time here and there for reading magazines and testing recipes and discovering new music and for blogging - she was, after all, my muse. But, once James came along, things changed and now there really is no free time to speak of. Oh sure, at 6 am I can do whatever I want to do (usually) and occasionally this incredible thing will happen and Luz and James will both nap for an hour at the same time. There are, of course, babysitters as well. But, generally speaking, I do not have the luxury to be self-indulgent. Even as I sit here and type I am thinking about the dishes I should wash, the clothes I should fold, the work I could be doing and the lunches I could be packing. I appreciate it all now though, I have a better perspective, I think. So much of my time is spent at work and away from the kids that I long for hours on end of the kids climbing on me and asking a million questions and telling silly stories and wishing I could just hide in the corner and read a magazine, or write a blog post. You would too if this is what you saw...

Luz and James, Sunday morning January 2, 2011:

And someday soon, when I get home from work at a reasonable hour and am not distracted by chores, I will tell you all about how I am the luckiest mama in the world and about what incredible things James is doing now that he is two and how he could not have asked for a more loving and incredible big sister.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Happy Birthday Jamesy

Most of the weekend was spent celebrating a very special 2nd birthday and I just could not get over feeling incredibly heartbroken about the fact that he is 2. I realize it sounds overly-sentimental, but losing a loved one and having a baby all within in such a short period of time tends to make one hyper-sensitive about the crushing- bittersweet nature of life. Embrace every life to the fullest...yeah, I get all of that, but still there is that achy little reminder that it is all fleeting.

So, we are left with no choice but to cherish every moment and make a proper memory together; and sometimes it is as simple as a bouquet of daisies and the sugary-sweetness of a perfectly baked king cake (Hi-Do Bakery in Terrytown, in case you were wondering).

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Get Your Groove On

The mind of a 5 year old is a strange and endlessly entertaining thing. Tonight before bed as we picked out the clothes for Luz's Saints free dress day tomorrow she asked Christian for some good 'crazy' dance moves because there are going to be t.v. cameras filming at school. She is smart and obviously understands who she needs to talk to about dancing. If she is lucky, the Johnson dancing genes from Nana are in her bloodlines and she will be the life of the party once she masters the electric slide. At any rate, what happened next was roughly 20 minutes of some of the weirdest dancing I have ever witnessed (courtesy of Christian and Lucy - and even James) and the result was (or is) a perhaps somewhat over-confident dancer. I guess we will see.

Luz loves dancing and music and we do all that we can to encourage it. The winter/spring ballet season started back up and even if she is not the most graceful ballerina in the group, she certainly has dedication. Here, see for yourself:

Untitled from Julie Vaicius on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Disney World 2010

Christmas vacation was lovely...just the way I like it, family dinner at Bon Ton Cafe on the 23rd, light week at work, Christmas cookies and carols and decorations, Christmas Eve dinner at GGs with the entire family (well, everyone who could be in NOLA for the holiday), grillades and grits, Christmas morning at mom's drinking Ojens in honor of Pop, afternoon runs with Loki just because I can, and plenty of little surprises here and there that were completely unexpected.

In 2010, however, the big deal was our much anticipated trip to Disney World thanks to Nana and Papa-T. The trip was in the works for quite a few months and the whole Disney experience is something...there are people who vacation in Disney annually, there are books dedicated to Disney 'secrets' and 'tips', there are travel agents who do nothing but arrange Disney vacations. I am not kidding. I am not a total novice either, I had been to Disney in the past, twice in fact, but my memory had faded for the most part and I had a tendency to laugh a little when I would hear stories about these Disney people. The recent trip was totally enlightening. I now have an appreciation for the books and the agents and the Disney lifestyle.

Aside from planning a few key events (some dinner reservations and an afternoon at the Bibbity Bobbity Bootique at Cinderella's castle) most of the time we spent there was flexible and it sort of had to be that way because we moved in a big group that included an almost 2 year old. It worked out perfectly. I felt very little pressure to get everything done, believe that Luz and James both had a complete Disney experience, have a better grasp on how to approach the parks if we ever return, and even managed the time well enough so that Christian could ride a few roller coasters with Papa-T. It was a lovely escape from reality and I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed the experience that I am contemplating a trip when James and Luz are both old enough to ride all of the rides.

As for the timing, well, apparently Orlando can get cold in December. And there is no question that it is an incredibly crowded time of year, but if you are a sucker for Christmas and enjoy nice decorations, Disney in December is not to be missed. Crowd management is an issue (on one of the days we were there the Magic Kingdom reached max capacity) but the Disney folks do a great job of making it not feel totally claustrophobic. Or maybe we were just lucky. At any rate, it is a trip that none of us will ever forget (even if James' only memories are from the pictures).

I am going to put together a list of my tips, pros and cons over the next few days and will be posting them soon on the off chance that anyone is interested.

Here's the entire family at the Polynesian hotel on the way to the luau celebrating our last night in Disney World:

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Christmas Wish List 2010

I failed to post a Christmas wish list for 2010 because I got too preoccupied with other things so I am posting one retroactively. Incidentally, I got everything on this list, some of which I never even knew I needed!

This guy was the biggest surprise, a squeezbox...I did not even know there was such a thing and now I cannot imagine life without it (amazing how technology has that impact). At any rate, it is a radio meets satellite meets internet meets itunes and the sound is great and it is in my kitchen and I can finally listen to This American Life without having to download podcasts or drive around town. Granted, it is mostly set to Radio Disney (Luz learned how to operate it before I did) but that is okay with me.

This next gift I sort of knew I needed, in fact I asked for it, but the timing could not have been more impeccable because we spent 3 days in 40 - 50 degree weather in Orlando (yes, Florida does get cold):

And this one because my white one is permanently stained and I live in it:

All of my books and music are electronic now and I need plenty of itunes cash for the many apps I now download - what a treat!

The greatest gift this year was the time I got to spend with my family. I had extra help during Christmas vacation thanks to my siblings, multiple dinners with loved ones I do not get to see often enough, and 5 fantastic days in Disney World with more family that I rarely see. It was a very special week and one that I will never forget.
There is no doubt that vacation tends to make me rethink my life and how things are prioritized. The hamster on the wheel/groundhog day syndrome becomes a recurring theme and I start to seriously consider throwing in the towel and figuring out a way to just live each day with one goal - to spend time with the people I love and enjoy each day - something that is, sadly, just not quite possible in this little life we have carved out. I know I will adjust, a week or two back in the grind and I will forget about my daydreams, or maybe not forget, just compartmentalize - something I am quite good at...And then there will always be the pictures to remind me of lazy mornings in luxurious hotel room beds waking up to sweet little voices filled with anticipation about the adventures in store: