Mall Dates

Justin and I love our Mall of America dates. There just really isn’t anything quite like it in the middle of winter in Minnesota. Where else can you wander around without freezing?Feels like a little taste of summer.Of course the wandering is even more delightful when it includes a Jamba Juice. Oh the deliciousness!A trip to Sea Life Park to visit the sharks and sea turtles makes mall dates extra fun. After this date we are officially Sea Life Park members which means we will be spending lots of time with our ocean friends! They’re even getting baby alligators this spring. Be still my beating heart.Fun story from our trip through the aquarium; there was an adorable little girl in there with her parents who was afraid of the sharks. When her dad walked up she said, “Are you scared too?” in the cutest voice ever, to which he responded with an explanation of how glass works. Then she looked up at her mom and said, “Get me outta here!”. I died.A delicious dinner is an essential part of a mall date. Safe to say that after our dinner at the new restaurant, Stir Crazy, we will be eating there a lot. It was amazing. Totally amazing. These crab cake hand rolls were one of the best appetizers I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to go back and have more!

I’m so thankful that we have a place like the Mall of America for winter dates. I may spend my days dreaming of a date on a beach but this is a pretty good option for this Minnesota girl!

The Return to New Orleans

I know you have all been waiting on egg shells for the Return to New Orleans 😉 My deepest apologies. So, we returned to New Orleans in October of 2006 to work another convention for Justin’s job, although this time I had to earn my keep. We were pretty lucky that Justin’s first job allowed me to tag along and work the convention booths alongside him in return for an all expense paid trip. Hard to beat free travel! And I was more than delighted to have the opportunity to return to New Orleans after falling so in love with it the previous year.This time around I came fully equipped with my brand new, first ever, digital SLR. I did however feel the need to shoot in black and white which I now regret. Lessons learned. And it was cloudy pretty much the entire time we were there so the pictures are a bit blah. But it was pretty great to be able to break in my new camera in such a beautiful city!This is the oldest bar in America. That’s one of the things I love about New Orleans. There’s lots of “Oldest in Americas” to be seen, which makes the history nut in me very happy. Some day I will go to Europe and all this will look young, But for the US, it’s pretty darn old.Justin and I headed down a day early so that we could get a little tourist action in before heading to work. The first day we headed to the French Market (which was much quieter than the year before thanks to Katrina, as was most of the French Quarter which was just starting to come back at that point), wandered around the French Quarter, had some beignets at Cafe du Monde, (an absolute must, so delicious!), and then headed to the zoo.The New Orleans zoo is to this day the coolest zoo I have ever been to, and I’ve been to a lot of zoos. I honestly had no idea how great it was till we went and were totally blown away at how it felt like you were just wandering through a jungle filled with amazing animals. I finally got to see a jaguar!(This feels like just yesterday but we look so young!)I love the trees in New Orleans and the park surrounding the zoo was filled with them. They had a sign there that showed a timeline of the trees lives and all that they had lived through, from the Native Americans, through the Civil War, all the way to today. The next day we were joined by Justin’s coworker, and I, being the tourist guide that I am, steered the boys towards the Lafayette Cemetery for a tour. This cemetery is located in the Garden District and is absolutely beautiful. Several movies have been filmed in this cemetery, including Interview with a Vampire. Our tour guide had actually worked with the crew during the movie and shared a little story about a certain actor married to a Ms. Holmes who behaved rather badly while on set. I knew that guy was crazy!The mausoleums here are so beautiful but many of them have fallen into disrepair. Once upon a time, everyone would gather in the cemetery on the Day of the Dead/All Saints Day/Day after Halloween to care for their family mausoleum. It was a day of celebration of lost loved ones, and it was an important ritual because the structures depended on the yearly care to maintain their appearances. The tradition has been forgotten for the most part though and the historical society cannot legally care for the mausoleums without the family’s permission. Finding the mausoleum’s owners can mean searching back over a hundred years, so as you can imagine, some of them sit untouched. See now, you didn’t think I’d let you go without a history lesson now did you?On our way back we walked through the Garden District and admired all the beautiful old houses. The boys entertained themselves while I snapped away and imagined myself in the Antebellum South. Yep, a history nerd. Through and through. We finished up our afternoon of tourism with lunch at the Redfish Grill. If you are ever in New Orleans, eat there. You will thank me.The rest of our time there was spent working and hanging out with the doctors who worked with Justin’s company. We did however manage to squeeze in a Haunted History Tour, which was heavy on the history, light on the haunted, just like I like it. The tour ended up being absolutely fascinating, filled with all kinds of stories that I never would have learned any other way. Along the tour we walked by the amazing sight of this silhouette of a statue of Jesus. Before Katrina, this picture didn’t exist because the area was filled with trees. After Katrina, it is a jaw dropping sight. A beautiful example of God making something beautiful out of something heartbreaking.

Camera+Babies=Happy Jackie

My family has been doing a bit of growing over the last year and today I was able to get some pictures of the new additions. To say that my two new little second cousins are adorable would be a major understatement. And they are just the sweetest babies to be around!Meet baby Owen. He is the newest edition, my cousin and his wife’s first baby, who arrived in December. He makes the most serious pouty faces while he sleeps.He slept like a champ through our crazy family noise, all the while entertaining us with the most serious of faces. And meet Addison, aka Addie, the first baby of my cousin and her husband, who just so happen to live ten minutes away from me. I sense a babysitting role in my future… And I couldn’t pick a sweeter baby to babysit.She is nothing but smiles all day long. Well, that and some pretty serious tongue action. She is very into rolling right now. She is just too cute!The three Owens in our family, my dad, uncle and my second cousin. And we thought things were confusing when there were just two Owens and us cousins could never figure out who’s uncle Owen the other was talking about!My aunt Bonnie, aka Grandma to the two new little ones.In our family we definitely balance our kids on one hand as soon as possible.And let the dog handle clean up duty. It’s a fend for yourself kind of family 😉The new cousins!

Life as a Trendsetter

I am nothing if not trendy. Well, actually that’s completely untrue. Let’s just say my first pair of skinny jeans came three years after they appeared in mainstream fashion and they continue to be my only pair. But in the scrapbooking world, I’m a little more on top of my game. So I was pretty excited to see a scrapbooking company releasing embroidered flowers in their winter release (this week is CHA where all the scrapbook companies release their new lines for the next 6 months) since I’ve been making my own like crazy around here. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that mine are cuter… That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. I can guarantee you mine are a whole lot cheaper at least!Yes, I think it would be fair to call me a major trendsetter. Maybe… Ok, probably not but I am pretty proud of myself for being a little ahead of the game on these. They’re just so fun and cute! And now that I’ve realized I can use embroidery thread to make them, which I’m already obsessed with anyways, I may have an addiction to deal with. I believe a Joann’s shopping trip in the near future will involve me coming home with piles of embroidery thread. Just sayin’.

Speaking of addictions, I’ve making washi tape by the bag full as well. For those of you not obsessed with into scrapbooking, washi tape is Japanese masking tape and it comes in all kinds of fun and colorful patterns. It is also insanely expensive. So I bought myself a giant role of double sided tape on ebay for four bucks and have been sticking it to everything.Tissue paper, tracing paper with digital patterned papers printed on it, tracing paper with stamps, vellum, old book pages… Nothing is safe in my scraproom right now. Nothing. Now, washi tape is certainly not new this season but it is coming out in a very big way this week with pretty much every company releasing rolls of it. So once again, I’m a smidgen ahead of the pack. Ummmm…. Maybe??? Well, at least I’m ahead of the curve on saving money. Win!

And just in case I haven’t totally convinced you of my trendsetter status, I leave you with this link where my layout was featured as the Inspiration du Jour. Yep, trendsetter. I’m tellin’ ya.

The Travel Bug

I have the travel bug. Big time. I believe it’s actually in my genes as I am the product of two people who spent the first ten years of their marriage living as gypsies. Ok, that might be a tad over dramatic. But my mom started traveling right after graduating high school to sing in lounges around the country.A few years later, she met a handsome fella fresh of the Air Force who was just the right kinda guy to travel along side her. Shortly after they abandoned their gypsy lifestyle for a more sedentary one, my father became an over the road truck driver, once again spending his days traversing the country. So as you can see, travel is in my blood. And right now, I am feeling quite the itch to go somewhere new. But since a trip isn’t in the cards quite yet, I am placating myself by revisiting the trips I’ve already been blessed with. And lucky for you, you get to come along 😉

We’ll start with New Orleans, which is actually two trips a year apart. Our first trip was in 2005 and it is a tantalizing saga filled with bandaids, museums and a daring escape from an infamous hurricane. Yes, you heard me correctly. My life is filled with excitement and adventure, the likes you can hardly imagine. Ok, once again I may be a tad over dramatic, but for the sake of the story, go with it. It was also my first time using a digital camera, my mother’s to be exact, and I have no digital copy of those pictures. I do however have the most amazing scrapbooking pages ever. (Let’s just say a little bit has changed in my scrapbooking and photography life since 2005, as well as in the industry as a whole. Going through these pages feels a bit like revisiting my junior high yearbook.) I also have a few of the photos I took with my 35mm SLR and developed in my darkroom (yes I had a darkroom, because my mom is the coolest). But I digress.

Our adventure began with an EMT convention that Justin was working at. For the first time since he started his “real” job, I was able to tag along and spend my days exploring. As we embarked on our journey, a little hurricane with the sweet name of Katrina was headed towards Florida. We didn’t really even notice. While Justin worked at the convention, I spent my days exploring the streets of the French Quarter and falling in love. For a history lover like me, it’s pretty much a dream city come true. Everything was so beautiful and I felt like I was surrounded by history on every side. Seriously people, I know I’m a nerd. It’s ok.These courtyards were so incredibly beautiful. I spied through every gate I could to admire them, and quickly began dreaming of having one of my own. Oh yes, it only took about a day before I was ready to move down there.

There are museums everywhere in the French Quarter and I visited all of them (I’m starting to think this post should really be titled How Big a Nerd is Jackie???). The first museum I visited was the Urseline convent, the oldest convent in the US. I admit, I was a little scared to venture out by myself at first, but it didn’t take long before I was loving it! My favorite museum was the Cabildo, which is in an old government building next to the St. Louis Cathedral, and included things like Napoleans death mask and an auction block from the slave market in New Orleans. Are you loving these old scrapbooking pages?!?! I would like to take this moment to add that some of my New Orleans scrapbook pages feature my first use of rub-on letters. I still have them. Yes, I have a hoarding problem.The street musicians and artists were so incredible. The talent that lines the streets of the French Quarter is unbelievable. I could sit and listen to them play for hours.

In the picture above, you may notice that I am holding what appears to be an enormous slurpee. It is in fact the leftovers of my seemingly never ending hurricane. Let me preface this by saying I don’t drink. I may have the occasional half glass of wine but that’s it. But when in Rome… You buy a Pat O’Brian’s Hurricane so that you can bring the glass home. But it doesn’t feel real if you just dump the hurricane out so you have to drink it to make your souvenir legit. And if your husband decides he doesn’t like the way hurricanes taste, you are stuck drinking it alone. Forever. And then you wake up feeling rather unpleasant in the middle of the night. Ok, maybe that’s not what everyone does, but that’s what I did. And then the maid took my glass when she cleaned the room???? So I called them and they said they would look for it. And then an actual hurricane came and my glass was no longer terribly important. The French Market was totally amazing. It’s the oldest open air market in the country and the nerd history buff in me enjoyed imagining what it was like shopping there 150 years ago. These are the things that make my heart sing.I went on a cemetery tour to the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 which is the more “urban” cemetery if you will. Lot’s of cool history there, along with some slightly spooky stuff like the burial site of the voodoo queen, which to this day is visited by people leaving small red x’s all over the mausoleum. I am morbidly fascinated by voodoo in a slightly terrified, read a lot of books about slavery that include voodoo way so this was both fascinating and disturbing to me. Just saying. It was on this tour that I realized that even the lightest summer skirt does not breathe enough for New Orleans. When it is 100 degrees with tropical humidity you need any moving air you can possibly get, and if said skirt covers your knees, you may just die in the sun. Just a fair warning to future travelers. That was the only day there that I didn’t wear my denim skirt, and I rushed back to the hotel after the tour to change back into it. Don’t judge me. It was the only bottom I had that didn’t make me feel like I was going to die.The cemetery tour included a stop at Congo Square which was rather awesome to me. If you’ve ever read a book about slaves in New Orleans, you’ve read about this place. Once again, this book and history lover was in heaven. This is the place where the slaves would gather on their Sundays off, to dance and socialize. Bet you didn’t realize you were going to get a history lesson today, now did you??? One of our evenings there, Justin and I visited the aquarium which was amazing. Lots of fun animals to see there like albino alligators, otters, sharks, anacondas… It was a beautiful place.It also included some ridiculously fun photo ops. We are so cool, what can I say??? We also took the streetcar through the Garden District and checked out all of the beautiful houses there and ate lots of delicious food. By the time we left, my feet were covered in bandaids because they were raw from all the walking, and I had to throw my flip flops away in the hotel because they were completely destroyed. Clearly I was enjoying myself. We squeezed so much good stuff into a few days that I was totally head over heels in love with the city when it was time to leave.

Saturday morning, as Justin prepared for his last day at the convention, after which we were headed home, we learned that little miss Katrina had changed her path and was now bearing down on New Orleans with a whole lot of fury. Justin went to work and I went to the Pharmacy Museum (more morbid fascination paired with a lot of gratitude for being born in this century). While I checked out the museum, the girl that was running it was busy sand bagging. As I walked through the city one last time, everyone was busy taking signs down, boarding up windows and closing down shop. It was one of the most surreal moments of my life, especially as I look back now, knowing what was to come.

The evacuation was in full effect by the time we hopped in a cab to head to the airport, and that dear cabby risked his car and the wrath of his wife to get us out of town safely. As he took back roads to avoid traffic and, when the freeway was unavoidable, drove down the shoulder, his wife called over and over yelling at him to get his butt home so they could leave. And then the poor man’s cab started overheating, and kept overheating (which we did point out but he was a man on a mission, bless his heart) until we pulled into the airport and it died. I kid you not. Justin and the doctor we were riding with gave the man all the cash we had left (never has a cabdriver deserved a giant tip more!), thanked him profusely, and walked through the airport parking lots to get to the airport. And that my friends is how I escaped from Hurricane Katrina. Alright, it may not have been the most daring escape ever, but for this midwestern girl, it was quite a bit of excitement.

Stay tuned for “The Return to New Orleans.”

Weekend Review

It was a pretty nice, lazy, laid back weekend around here, which is exactly the kind of weekend I crave in the winter months. On Friday we hung out at home and watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I tend to feel pretty run down after my infusions so I try not to make any plans for those Fridays. Sitting at home watching a good movie is perfect for those days. On Saturday, we went to church and then went on a double date to dinner and a movie. My friend and I had read Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close a year ago and LOVED it so we were excited to check out the movie. The movie was good, but the book is AMAZING so I highly recommend reading it before you see the movie. The movie was much sadder than the book was, even though the book covers even more heavy material. Somehow the book is just lighter and more endearing. I can’t really explain it, but if you read it you’ll understand, and totally thank me for introducing you to one of the most amazing books ever. Just sayin’. Anyways, the boys weren’t exactly chomping at the bit to see our movie as you can probably imagine so they went to see Underworld.Aren’t they adorable in their super cool 3D glasses??? Oh how these two love each other. There was even some talk of shared slurpies… Should I be worried??? 😉 Anywhoo, they had lots of fun watching vampires and werewolves fighting while we cried our way through our movie. I’ve gotta say, it’s a pretty good double date formula.

On Sunday I was supposed to go to Albert Lea with my dad and cousin for a sleepover at my aunts and a funeral Monday morning. Unfortunately the weather had other plans, plans filled with ice falling from the sky. It was a bummer because we were all looking forward to our sleepover and I would have really liked to be at the funeral for my uncle. Ahhh Minnesota in the winter. Two months of balmy snow free weather and then the one day you need to go somewhere it brings on the nastiness. But Justin and I ended up having a lovely Sunday evening at home, complete with a steak dinner, some cribbage (in which I smoked Justin. Whoop whoop!), a movie and some reading. If you play cribbage, take a moment to appreciate this hand. Oh yes, I rocked the cribbage. We don’t need to mention the fact that I still need Justin to double check my cards for points I missed, right???

So, that was our weekend in a nutshell. Nothing terribly exciting, just a nice relaxing few days which are hard to find these days.

And then this morning, I woke to the mind blowing sight of white stuff out our window.So that’s what winter’s supposed to look like… Of course, it couldn’t have picked a better time to show up. I missed my trip to Albert Lea and Justin had to cancel his appointment today after it took him an hour to go ten miles. Gotta love this crazy state! I think… Or maybe we are just crazy and should have moved away decades ago…

Why My Iphone Rocks

Because I always have a camera handyso I never miss a photo op.The everyday, the little things that don’t typically include a camera, get captured.The lazy weekend mornings.The errands.The simple day to day. They all get captured. And that makes the photographer and scrapbooker in me very, very happy. And yes, my animals end up in lots and lots of pictures. But this is what my life looks like! And they are willing subjects 🙂

And to make it even better, I can edit them right there on my phone! No more boredom when I’m waiting for something. I just whip out my phone and start editing, and they are ready to go when I want to print them. Such a time saver!

*Disclaimer: This is only one of the multitude of reasons why my Iphone rocks. Just so we’re clear.