Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween In C-Major?

To celebrate her favorite holiday of the year Luz composed a little number for the piano.  I do not remember much about the piano and have not ever really understood anything about reading notes and composing music but Luz seems to enjoy it.  This one is short and dark and dramatic and perfect for Halloween also kind of makes me laugh. She loves to play it though...anytime, anywhere for anyone willing to take a listen.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween!

My little pirates have seized every opportunity to get into costume.  And even though they have already collected more than enough candy for any little kid over the past few days, they are eagerly awaiting tomorrow night...and I am sure they are dreaming about x-large pixie sticks and twix bars...

We had a great weekend - Boo at the Zoo, the Jazz 1/2 Marathon, the French Quarter for beignets and the search for the perfect pumpkin, a quiet afternoon with an old friend and his precious family, and a gorgeous Sunday spent mostly outside, carving pumpkins and enjoying the gorgeous weather.  Oh, and my first week at my new far so good...I promised I would give myself a few months before I made a decision about whether it is right for me, but it feels right after just one week.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Paint The Gym Pink

Tonight the ASH Volleyball team hosted the annual Paint the Gym Pink night and managed to pack the gym.  I made it in time for the varsity game but James was ready to go home (understandably) after a long day, so I did not get to see any of the excitement.  Fortunately, Luz brought some of the excitement home with her:

It took about three really intense washings to get this stuff out...good times.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


We are in full-on Halloween mode around the Vaicius house.  Luz has already eaten more Halloween candy this season than I did in all of the Halloweens of my youth combined...seriously.  She continues to be obsessed with ghosts and is fascinated by a book about Alabama ghosts that her Aunt Kate sent (13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey...very creepy).

It was a busy but lovely weekend around here.  I celebrated my 20th, yes 20th high school reunion, we watched a ton of volleyball (my first time making it to one of Christian's games all year), spent some time with Mary Cox and Katie, enjoyed some of the most incredible NOLA weather ever, and rested up for the start of my NEW JOB tomorrow morning.  Yikes.

I am capping off the weekend watching an easy Saints victory and checking out some of the many pics I took over the weekend at the reunion festivities.  My favorite, by far, is this one:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


In a move that caught me so off-guard I had to pick my bottom jaw up off of the ground, Luz and James shrieked with excitement and begged for a chance to sit on Pumpkinhead's lap for a picture while we were at the mall after their dentist appointment this afternoon.  There was just so much that was wrong with the request - James has screamed every year we have put him on Santa's lap, he hated the guy dressed up as the Easter bunny standing outside of church, he barely cracked a smile at the characters in Disney World, he only somewhat tolerates Gumbo and only from a distance and, with much urging, he lightly hugged Clifford last weekend.  But it was not just the past behavior, this Pumpkinhead character is frightening and Luz and James have been a bit jumpy with the start of the Halloween season and all this talk of ghosts and goblins.

No matter, it required no pumping up, no steeling of wills, no waiting in lines (there are not too many kids at Lakeside Mall on Wednesday at 1:15, and even fewer who care to sit on Pumpkinhead's lap), no coaxing for smiles....they just saw something they agreed looked like total awesomeness and went for it.  It was worth the $24.99 for the memories and the hope that, just maybe, the reaction to Santa might be a bit more enthusiastic this year:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New Orleans Public Library Book Fair

Last Saturday the main branch of the NOLA public libraries, hosted a wonderful, totally free, book fair for kids.  It was the 2nd annual event - somehow we missed it last year - and it was excellent.  The fair was well-organized and provided tons of entertainment for the kids.  The best part about the event was that no child left empty-handed.  There were multiple tables filled with brand-new books, courtesy of Scholastic (mostly), Highlights magazines, used books looking for a good home and other odds and ends.  Each child was given a free tote bag and within an hour the bags were full.

I do not know if every kid likes books as much as Luz and James do, but they could not wait to get home and check out their haul.  Luz picked out a few "chapter" books, including a new Junie B. Jones, and James opted for a book about pirates and a sweet bedtime story book.

There were free Lucky Dogs, drinks, red beans & rice, cookies, pony rides (well, the pony rides were actually $3 each, but I did not mind a little splurge under the circumstances), crafts, a petting zoo (yes, Luz and James each touched an armadillo and a snake - gross), Clifford the Big Red Dog (I pity whoever had to wear that get up), face painting, balloon creatures, an exhibit curated by The Ruby Bridges Foundation (who Luz learned about last year and is very fascinated by), and a stage with music and readings by local authors.  My favorite, by far, was listening to/watching Alex Beard read from his book, Jungle Grapevine, with his son. I love his art and his story-telling...very engaging.  If you do not know about him, check out his website,, or buy one of his awesome books:

All in all, the festival is a great event and I hope it is one that they do ever year.  I will attend as long as Luz and James are interested and I gather that will be for at least a few more years.  Here are a few pics from the event.  I am still adjusting to the Tamron...getting there:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

LLV Favorites

These days Luz loves:

1.  School - almost every minute of every day...I am shocked, my memory of First Grade is that it was hard and boring
2.  Scooby Doo - any episode, classic or contemporary, Scrappy or no Scrappy
3.  American Girl Dolls - all of the dolls and all of the accoutrement with very little appreciation for the price
4.  Her cousins - why are they all in other cities...
5.  Going to the park, any park, with friends
6.  Wednesday afternoons with mom-mom
7.  Trips to Atlanta to visit Nana and Papa-T and spend time with her cousins
8.  Halloween - not just because of the candy, she has always liked creepy things, and this year the hot topic is ghosts/spirits
9.  Swimming
10. Reading, especially Junie B. Jones books (and, yeah, she can pretty much do it herself)
11. Being a big sister to James - which involves endless amounts of patience and good humor
12. Playing 'school'
13. Math homework, I am not kidding, just wait until she learns my dark secret about hating math
14. Movies
15. Theater, all kinds, but most recently and most especially, The Addams Family
16. Top 40 Music...yeah, I know....
17. Her bun bun, still...but the need for a lovey is dwindling...lately I find him on the floor and across the room and even in the hallway when it used to be that she could not sleep without him
18. Clothes that look like they would be worn by a teenager, I guess there are no more smocked dresses in her future...
19.  The IPhone, IPad and Droid and all of the games available on those devices
20.   Dogs...when are we getting a new one...I have no idea...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

JCV Favorites

These days James loves:
1.  The Ipad (Plants v. Zombies, Angry Birds, Animal Train Safari, Driving, etc).  He also loves looking at photos on the Ipad;
2.  Christian's IPhone (all games mentioned above and Star Wars Lightsaber Ap);
3.  My Droid, although not nearly as much;
5.  Music, all sorts, especially whatever Luz is into;
6.  Movies (Yogi Bear, Tangled, Toy Story 3);
7.  TV (Dora, Team UmiZoomi, Jake, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Little Einsteins);
8.  Books (Scuppers the Sailor Dog, Goodnight Moon, Big Red Barn...still);
9.  Trains (Chuggington & Thomas but any old train will do);
10. Cars (especially THE CARS but any old cars will do);
11. All trucks, boats, planes, etc...especially live ones;
12. Pasta (any kind - plain more so than traditional mac and cheese these days);
13. Hugs (this guy loves to cuddle and I know that will end soon);
14. Copying Luz...every day, all day;
15. Running and jumping, especially long distances and off of furniture;
16. Fake talking to Nana on the phone...this goes on all day long;
17. Playing at the park, any park, especially when other kids are there to play with him;
18. Ice Cream and Pinkberry but I think it is just an excuse to eat the 5 or so gummy bears on top;
19. Going to mom-mom's house and I think he pretty much knows the way and would walk there if allowed;
20. WINNIE - we have 3 - a big one, a classic one and a traditional little Pooh (his true sweet)!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Meet The Tamron AF18-200 F/3.5-6.3

One of many birthday wishes came true, Christian and the kids totally surprised me with a new camera lens, a totally versatile Tamron lens that does a good job of capturing pictures at a variety of distances and under different circumstances.  It is a perfect lens for me and means I will not have to do much swapping out to accommodate different settings.  Plus, my Cannon kit lens is totally uncooperative these days so I needed something to fill the gap. 

The lens is light-weight but sturdy and only slightly more complicated to use than I anticipated.  I am having fun learning all about the many wonderful things it can do and am only barely able to capture a decent picture right now.  I have to learn a little more about focusing, lighting and distance before I can really be comfortable with this guy...until then, bear with me and enjoy the practice.

The first one was my 3rd shot ever with the Tamron (I had to delete shots 1 and 2, understandably):

These are a few from Sunday when we celebrated Mom-Mom's birthday at the Yacht Club with GG, Papa George and Elaine. The kids loved watching the sailboats...very cheap thrills.  It helped that it was an absolutely gorgeous day to be outside:

Sunday, October 09, 2011

What To Do On A Fall NOLA Day - Part III

Last Sunday, before taking Nana and Papa-T to the Lakefront Airport, we had brunch at Cafe on the Square.  The Cafe is in the St. Charles Avenue Hotel on the corner of Poydras and St. Charles. It has big picture windows so that diners can watch streetcars and check out Lafayette Square.  The view of St. Charles is perfect and the Lafayette Square view is even more lovely unless/until the homeless fellows show up for mid-morning naps after breakfast at Ozanam Inn.

I had been to the Cafe for lunch on a few occasions and enjoyed it, and we frequently order catered breakfast from the Cafe for work events, but I had never been there for weekend brunch.  Admittedly, it was not our first choice, but on a cool NOLA morning every brunch place is packed, so we were thrilled to find a place where we could be seated immediately with a party of 6.  The waitress was super-accommodating and immediately brought crayons for the kids (the tables are covered in white paper and the kids were encouraged to channel their inner Picasso), the ambiance was nice, the menu has a great mix of savory and sweet which is important for someone like me who gravitates to sweet stuff for breakfast, and the food was excellent.  I highly recommend Cafe on the Square for brunch - don't let the fact that it is in a hotel deter you - it is worth the trip!

After brunch Christian and the kids took Nana and Papa-T to the airport and the kids spent most of the time climbing around on Papa-T's plane, daydreaming about stowing-away in the back of the plane and hiding out with their cousins in Atlanta...maybe next time.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

What To Do On A Fall NOLA Day - Part II

After a lovely and not-too-crowded morning at the City Park Carousel Gardens, Christian and Papa-T spent the afternoon flying from NOLA to Thibodaux and around both cities. It took them less than 20 minutes to get to Thibodaux by plane - amazing!  Christian got some really cool shots of the farm and cane fields while they circled.  He also snapped a picture of our neighborhood.  I will eventually post them (once I can figure out what I am looking at and can properly orient everyone).

While the guys flew, Nana and I took the kids to the Freret Street Market.  I had not been in a long time and there were a few things I wanted to check out.  I knew they would have a few adoptable dogs out there (not too many since the big SPCA event was going on simultaneously in City Park) and there were a few cute ones.  I also figured there would be good music and food.  The highlights for the kids were the crepes and the lemonade.  Poor Nana barely got a bite of her cheddar bacon crepe.  The highlights for me were the crafts - especially Miss.  Malaprop - she has some great rings, hair accessories and earrings - and this delicious herbal tea and infused water stand.  I cannot remember the vendor and Christian was incredulous when I told him I spent $3 on her water BUT it was delicious, truly.

There is so much great stuff to say about Freret Street.  It has clearly become a destination and that is thanks, at least in part, to the allure of the Freret Street Market.  I think the market takes place once a month and I recommend checking it out if you have a free afternoon. We enjoyed every minute of our trip.

After an evening bbq we headed down Magazine Street to Pinkberry and were entertained throughout the walk by all of the Art for Arts Sake festivities.  Granted, because we had the kids with us and only a limited amount of time (the sun had already set and bedtime was fast approaching), we did not go in any of the stores or galleries (other than Pinkberry) but there was plenty of people watching to do and some great store fronts - even a karaoke machine manned by someone with a love for cheesy 80's music.  AfAS is a fabulous event that has grown exponentially over the years.  There is a free shuttle on Magazine Street so you can drink without worrying about driving and walk knowing that a ride is there for you if you need it.  As long as I am in town I will check out this event every year.  The kids loved it too...but slowly started to get worn out on the walk home:

Monday, October 03, 2011

What To Do On A Fall NOLA Day - Part I

Last weekend was filled with tons of incredible fun and free (or almost free) activities.  The perfect weather was a motivating factor - we all wanted to be outside - but it was also nice to have so many different activities to choose from.

On Friday night we had drinks and dinner at Midway pizza, a fabulous new pizza place that opened on Freret Street.  I know, we have many pizza places in Uptown NOLA, but they are all distinctly different and there is nothing bad about having too many pizza places.  Incidentally, my least favorite pizza place is the one that is closest to our house - NY Pizza - go figure.  Luz and Christian love and will always vote for Theo's, but I think the vote is somewhat skewed. Luz likes it because of the Miss Pac Man machine.  For any ordinary family pizza night, Slice is my pick.  Reginelli's is my favorite daytime pizza place and I like it best for takeout, but I cannot tolerate the crowds at night.  My two favorite "night out without the kids" pizza places are Dommenica (hands down, the BEST) and Ancora (might actually end up beating Dommenica because of the convenience factor -yes, it too is on Freret).  Back to Midway though, I think it is a great, family-friendly pizza restaurant.  The pizza is good, the salads are good, the alcohol selection is perfect, and the vibe of the place is top-notch.  I love that there were couples out on dates, friends meeting up for drinks after work, and families all packed in side-by-side.  The noise level might be a bit tough for the older crowd but it is perfect for families who would like to disguise a toddler meltdown mid-meal.  I highly recommend that you check it out of if you are looking for another reliable pizza destination in NOLA.  If it is a weekend night and you do not want to hang around for hours, arrive early as there was quite a wait by the time we left around 8:00.

We woke up on Saturday morning and decided to take advantage of the already long ago paid for season passes to the City Park Carousel Gardens for a morning of rides.  I am so glad that we purchased the passes at the beginning of the summer because they have more than paid for themselves.  I will do it every year as long as the kids still enjoy the rides.  Luz is now a champ and will go on all of the rides (with the exception of the music express as she is not tall enough and she watched it debilitate Christian for the better part of a day).  She even convinced me to take her on the scrambler and conned Nana into a ride on the never-ending ferris wheel.  It was crowded but manageable...there were not any particularly long lines for any of the rides, except the train and it would have broken James' heart if we skipped his favorite one!  So, if you are in NOLA and looking for a great way to help the kids burn off some energy, consider a trip to the Carousel Gardens.  The cost of rides and admission is not outrageous and if you plan to go multiple times, a family pass is a great option.  Did I mention they sell beer there (Abita and Miller Lite)?  You can also pack a picnic lunch (which I did on Saturday) to save on the overall cost of a day at the Carousel Gardens.  There is ample seating throughout the park.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

NOLA Weekend

All it takes is a 70 degree, sunny NOLA weekend to remind me why living here is a good thing and that, even though there is so much about the city that is tough to take, I cannot imagine being anywhere else. 

Our weekend was even better than just beautiful weather and excellent excuses to be outside because Nana and Papa-T flew down to visit us for a quick 48 hours.  We managed to pack in a ton of activity in two short days, but we also had plenty of r and r and a healthy dose of fresh air.

The gang...on our way inside the City Park Carousel Gardens: