NOLA-ing: NOLA Baby Firsts

If you follow cute New Orleans-centric stores like Fleurty Girl and NOLA Gifts and Decor, you might have seen the adorable NOLA Baby Firsts print by local artist Allie Behan. I ogled over this print on FaceBook, thinking that it would be a perfect keepsake to commemorate our daughter’s first NOLA experiences. From going to the zoo for the first time to eating her first crawfish or snoball, this print fits into our interests and lifestyle perfectly. Unfortunately, when I visited two different Fleurty Girl stores, they were sold out out of this popular print (they have since restocked). I was bummed, but figured I could wait; after all, it is not like she can do everything on the print yet.

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Image courtesy of Fleurty Girl.

A few days later at work, a coworker of ours gave us gift for our daughter. Happily, it was the NOLA Baby Firsts print! I think I squealed with delight when I saw it. It is so sweet to have such marvelous people in our daughter’s life. We are definitely blessed and started planning out when to start accomplishing some of these firsts. We then picked which first we thought we would accomplish last. My husband guessed her first Saints game since we have only ever been to one and that was during the preseason. I picked her first streetcar ride since in all my time living in and around New Orleans, I have never ridden the streetcar! Though maybe we will purposely ride one now, just to make sure we fulfill all of the firsts.

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NOLA-ing: New Orleans Tricentennial festivities

This year is a big one for New Orleans, as it officially marks the Tricentennial. The Big Easy’s 300th birthday is a year long celebration and this week has some extra-special happenings. We hope to attend a few of these occurrences over the course of the weekend.

NOLA Navy Week: The Tall Ships are coming! To help celebrate the Tricentennial, NOLA Navy Week is bringing up tall ships from not just the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard, but from Great Britain and Canada as well.  VIP FastPass tickets available here. Here’s a schedule below of how to see them.

Thursday, April 19
12:00pm Tall ships arrive into downtown New Orleans. All times approximate. Ships will dock at Woldenberg Riverfront Park at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. (No public boarding day on day of arrival.
Friday, April 20
10:00am – 12:00pm Pre-arranged school and social groups
12:00pm – 5:00pm Tall ships open to the public. Admission is free.
Saturday, April 21
10:00am – 12:00pm Pre-arranged school and social groups
12:00pm – 5:00pm Tall ships open to the public. Admission is free.
Sunday, April 22
10:00am – 5:00pm Tall ships open to the public. Admission is free.
Saturday, April 21
6:45pm – 12:00am Tall Ships® Tricentennial Gala – Tall Ships celebrate NOLA’s 300th! On-deck and dock-side black-tie gala in Woldenberg Park. Tickets include drinks, food, dancing and fireworks over the River. Download the Gala invitation (PDF)
Monday, April 23
9:00am Tall ships depart New Orleans. Please note: Navy ships maintain a separate schedule. Visit: NOLA Navy Week for more information.

Tricentennial Dog Parade: The Saints’ mascot Gumbo will lead those “lucky dogs” that call New Orleans home down the streets around City Bark on Sunday, April 22. If you want your dog to participate, check-in is at 10am and the parade starts at 11am. There is also a costume contest for your cute pooch. Registration is $40/dog or $45/dog on site. According to the website:

Dress your dogs up to compete in the following costume contest categories: Best NOLA-centric Attire, Most “Fest”ive Pet, Funniest Costume, and Best Pet Duo (dog and owner). Prizes include tickets to Zoo-to-Do, a membership to NOLA City Bark, a $100 gift certificate to Metairie Small Animal Hospital, a 5-day pass to Dogtopia, a gift basket from Magazine Street Animal Clinic and more.

Tricentennial Citywide Family Reunion: On Sunday, April 22, a celebration of jazz music will occur with music, food, and a nighttime fireworks display at 9pm at City Park’s Big Lake at 9 p.m. In Armstrong Park, there will be performances by Mia Borders, Ivan Neville and Friends, Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers and other local acts. A jazz stage in Congo Square (starting at 2 p.m.) will feature Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard, Patti Austin, Ledisi and other guests. Guests are welcome to bring their own food, drinks, blankets, and chairs to enjoy the festivities. If you cannot make it, they are filming the performances to be shown online as part of International Jazz Day on April 30.

If these festivities weren’t exciting enough, there is also Kenner’s Italian Heritage Festival.

Located at: 400 Blk of Williams Blvd. (from the River to the railroad tracks)

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With so many activities going on during this beautiful weekend, there is no reason to stay indoors!

 

Traveling: Yes! We Are Going to Disney Again

“Y’all are going to Disney, again?”

We get that question a lot…like there is a limit to the number of times one can go.

The first vacation we took as a couple was to Walt Disney World. I took over a new responsibility at work, that was making me feel really stressed.  (Funny, now it’s the one I worry about the least).  I just wanted to get away.  Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple’s best friend lived in Orlando and so we had a place to stay.  In fact, her sister was going to UCF so we had two places to stay.  This covers the biggest hurdle for repeated visits: having a place to lay your head.

However, we still have a blast.  Yes, we still enjoy riding rides even though we don’t just ride rides.  We enjoy the food if you go beyond just quick service (and even some of those are better than others). We enjoy shopping at the different shops, even though we don’t buy all that much.  We definitely love people watching.  We look for meltdowns by kids and parents. We look for the newlywed couples that are starting their new lives by returning to their childhoods for a week.  We enjoy watching the family reunions and seeing the oldest in the group act just like the youngest when seeing a character.

Other vacations are work for us. Going to Europe, driving across country, doing study abroad, these are not relaxing vacations.  Because we have been to Disney so many times, it is relaxing for us.  We don’t have the pressure of making sure we have to do everything. We don’t have the pressure of running to a fast pass across the park.  The closest we have to pressure is making sure we are at our reservations if we have time.

Sometimes, we do enjoy staying on grounds, and in particular camping at Disney.  In fact, if your child is old enough to recognize Mickey Mouse, but not ride rides, then Fort Wildness is a perfect way to have a Disney experience.  They have two major pools, tons of activities, and character experiences. There is a character themed restaurant, and Chip and Dale often have a campfire event. If you are tent camping, it can get really cheap.

For us, Disney World will always be special.  It’s where I had the courage to tell Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple I love her for the first time.  It’s where we took my sister after she graduated from college.  Her family has more than one reunion at the park.  We have run races there. Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple’s sisters have completed their first half-marathon there (you can read about one of those stories here).  It’s a place where memories do get made.

We will be going at least once over Spring Break since we will be there for Star Wars Celebration. We will bring our new camera and try to see the parks with fresh eyes again.

I know we are not the only Disney fanatics out there.  We have tons of friends who go, some even more often than us.  I think it’s because we have one thing in common.  We forget how old we are there and turn into kids ourselves.  Sure, we are falling into the marketing trap, but if we are having fun, who cares?

Parading: The Krewe of Apollo

Yes, there are plenty of parades in the New Orleans area.  If you are one of our readers from outside of New Orleans you are probably familiar with these parades.  However, Mardi Gras extends throughout Cajun country (and into the coastal parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida).  Mr. Nola Nerd Couple hails from the small town of Lockport, Louisiana.   Every year, on the Saturday before Mardi Gras, the Krewe of Lockport rolls throughout the town. It’s a special parade because literally it one giant family party. Here is our posts on the last two years of this parade.

2016 Krewe of Apollo

2015 Krewe of Apollo

Of course, we will be at the parade this Saturday.  It rolls at noon, and sure promises to be a good way to pass the time, cher.

Hope to see you there!Krewe of Apollo

 

Traveling: LIGO in Livingston Parish, Louisiana

We originally planned to post this before the third Saturday, or Science Saturday, of August.  And then the rains came.  They didn’t stop.  LIGO is located in Livingston Parish, one of the parishes that received the worst of it. LIGO made out ok.  They will be having their Science Saturday this week on the 17th. 

Mr. and Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple craves adventure and excitement. It’s the reason why we are not Jedi. We love to go explore new nerdy things. And what could be nerdier than touring a Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO for short.

LIGO is a research facility used to detect and understand gravitational waves. Its a facility that “use laser interferometry to measure the minute ripples in space-time caused by passing gravitational waves from cataclysmic cosmic sources such as the mergers of pairs of neutron stars or black holes, or by supernovae. LIGO consists of two widely separated interferometers within the United States—one in Hanford, Washington and the other in Livingston, Louisiana—operated in unison to detect gravitational waves.”  My physics knowledge is too weak to paraphrase that long quote.

That’s why we went to LIGO for Science Saturday.

On the third Saturday of every month, LIGO Livingston hosts a Science Saturday so we took the opportunity in July to attend one. The events are free and include a tour of the facility including the control room. There is also a hands-on area to demonstrate how physics works in the real world. Each month there is a different theme. The week we went was “Swing into Science” that had some homemade (read: you could recreate at home) pendulums with explanations.  We did one that had a pendulum that swung back and forth.  I had to wear a set of glasses that had one lens dark and the other clear. A volunteer came, without us asking, and explained how to conduct the experiment.  He  moved the pendulum and while I was wearing the glasses, I could see the pendulum move in a 360-degree circle.  Mrs. Nola nerd Couple confirmed that it was not moving in a circle just back and forth.  I switched the dark and clear over my eyes: the pendulum rotated the opposite direction.  Moral of the lesson: don’t drive with only one lens in your sunglasses.

The tour of the facility was interesting, but I would lie if I said that I understood it all.  They did talk about megaparsecs which  as everyone, but Han Solo, knows is a measure of length not time.  We also learned that to discover the sounds of gravitational waves, you had to subtract other sounds. They had different monitors that measured sounds. Of course, between 10 pm to 6 am, we as a species are a lot quieter than from 6am to 10 pm. By eliminating different waves from different sources could start focusing on gravitational waves. Then on September 14, 2015, they detected gravitational waves.


The best part is the hands-on educational exhibits.  Besides the science project ones, they have more sophisticated permanent exhibits.  All teach you about physics.  We learned a lot while we played.  Families were enjoying their day and the place was busy the entire time we were there.

So, if you are looking for something fun and free to do with your kids or just because you are nerds like us, we can’t recommend LIGO high enough.

Traveling: Historic Philadelphia

Happy Fourth of July! As we are celebrating America’s independence today, we thought it would be appropriate to showcase where the birth our independence started: Philadelphia. We took a fantastic vacation to Philly last month and being the history buffs that we are, fully immersed ourselves in early America’s history while there.

Ben Franklin was everywhere we went in Philadelphia.

Ben Franklin was everywhere we went in Philadelphia.

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Eating: Philadelphia Eats

Normally, Nola Nerd Couple researches moderately priced local priced places to eat on our travels. Philadelphia was different. We were there for Wizard World Philadelphia (we will definitely have more about that in a series of upcoming blogs). While we were going to do some sightseeing, our schedules were determined by the convention.  We figured we would probably eat at some chain restaurants, and we did. Besides those times, we did get some really good meals in Philadelphia without researching ahead.

Of course, if you are in Philly you have to get a cheesesteak. We knew about the famous ones, but we didn’t head there basically because we were too tired to walk to them.  Nearer to the Independence Hall area was Sonny’s Famous Cheesesteaks. We looked on Yelp! and surprisingly it got great reviews.  We got there and three people had Phillies shirts on which made me more confident in my choice. I ordered mine with onions and cheez whiz; Cristina went with American cheese only.  We both ordered bacon on it. We also went with bacon cheese fries. After taking a couple of bites of the sandwich, I realized we made a mistake. This sandwich didn’t need bacon.  Let me be clear, this was the first sandwich, ever, that bacon didn’t improve. It was perfect just as it is.  It was also better than any I have outside of Philly.

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Before…

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…and after

Listening to the Thinking Outside the Longbox podcast, they mentioned a donut shop that was mostly staffed by Amish people.  This donut shop, Beiler’s Donuts and Salads, is located inside of Reading Market Terminal. This old rail station has been turned into a giant food court.  There was everything here ranging from Thai to Greek to Mexican to Cajun. When we go back to Philly, I plan on eating more meals here.

The first day we were there, we didn’t get the donuts, opting for some lunch. Those meals, ribs and chicken wings, were good and packed a lot of food in for the price.  The next morning we headed to the donut shop.

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Hey look, it’s Long Box Mike!

 

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I got a caramel apple and strawberry filled glazed donut. Cristina opted for maple bacon and a glazed donut. These donuts were so good they would make Richard Dawkins say oh my god!. They were so good I texted my sister, a Type-I diabetic, and told her if she ever makes it to Philadelphia that these donuts were worth her losing a foot.

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We did get another meal at Reading Terminal.  The sausage with sour kraut was fantastic and relatively cheap especially when I compare it to a favorite Nola spot for similar food. The potato pancake was perfectly done and paired well with applesauce. Cristina opted for a hamburger with mac and cheese that was not as good as Cowbell’s, but it wasn’t that far behind.

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Outside the convention center, they had revolving food trucks each day. Surprisingly, they were not very crowded even at lunch times. That’s a shame because one, Chef Donte’s Delicious Dishes, had a fantastic crab cake sandwich and lamb burger. The honey mayo that went with the sweet potato fries was a perfect compliment to the fries.

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The final day in Philly we went to the Rocky steps.  Using the maps feature on our phone, we found the Kite and Key restaurant. They had excellent bar food and great service. It was Philadelphia Beer Week so I had a Yards Orang’n of the Species. If I didn’t have to walk a mile or more back to the hotel, I would have had several.

We had such a good time in Philadelphia that we want to go back. There is still a lot to see. Next time, I will do my research because of these meals are any indication what Philly’s food scene has to offer, we will be eating well.