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Entries in New Orleans (5)


And Now... Coming at You From the Crescent City!

Last Saturday, after a month in Florida, we headed "home" to Memphis.

But, wait, there's more! This week, I'm writing to you from New Orleans. Funny thing, it rained every day that we were in Florida and then, surprise, our first day here in NOLA... rain.

When Tariq and I were married in Pakistan, it rained on the day of our wedding even though it hardly ever rains in December. It was then that I learned that rain is considered auspicious and a blessing in Pakistani culture. Even if it keeps you from the beach the entire time you're in Florida or results in your having to roll up the cuffs of your jeans when you bring groceries into your brother's house in New Orleans. 

Front Row on the Fourth. Also, trifles.

As a result of our escape from suburbia that landed us in a high rise, it took us approximately 45 seconds to get the best seats in the house for the Mud Island fireworks. Right before that, thought, as for me and my house, we served a blueberry and strawberry trifle that was supposed to be red, white and blue but ended up being red, white-ish and purple.

Blueberries, cream cheese filling, fresh strawberries

According to 98% of the individuals surveyed regarding the trifle, it was a success. Notable exception was my daughter who declared the blueberry filling to be something she wasn't "crazy about." My dear, anything that doesn't make you crazy is definitely something I'm committed to making again.


Once I realized that the blueberry part was going to more purple than blue, I abandoned the notion of creating a replica of the American flag. Okay. In the spirit of George Washington (recall sketchy apple tree story) and Abraham Lincoln (they called him "Honest Abe" despite lack of sketchy apple tree story), I cannot tell a lie. I got lazy and crazy with the strawberries.

If you want the recipe for a patriotically inspired dessert, just use this this one from the food network. I ditched the almond extract because I never use that and I'm not buying an ounce when all I need is a teaspoon. I also used apricot preserves and those sugary pearl things as a garnish. Sugary pearl things were left over from Eid last year.

These things don't go bad. Hopefully.

Did you make or do anything special this past week? Also, has anyone else driven over a 3500 miles with their family in the last five weeks?


Pumpkins and Possibilities

This past weekend, we drove from Memphis to New Orleans.

To the people who told me how wonderful it was that I would be so much closer to my brother now, I would like to say... SIX HOURS IS JUST ENOUGH TO STILL BE FAR.

But I got to see my brother who graciously took time off of his normally busy routine... Plus, Traci!!  And their baby girl!!  Come to think of it.  Six hours isn't really that long, anyway.

Time in New Orleans is usually spent some place that is both kid friendly and kind of cool.  Choices are obviously limited.

This year, we checked out a local tradition over at Canal Place, located on, not surprisingly, Canal Street.

Operation Pumpkin.

new orleans water board mark "The New Orleans Water Board Sewer Cover. Don't Steal Them."

Local surgeons get together, carve pumpkins, and sell them for $25 a pop to the public in order to raise money for The Children's Hospital.  The kids enjoyed themselves, and, dudes, look at this pumpkin.

I don't know that guy, but he has mad surgical skills.  If I ever need a plastic surgeon, I'm looking him up.  There were lots of artsy projects for the kids to do as well.

Anyway, as I walked through this mall, I thought, "Yeah, so I brought my kids to a mall for fun, this is so America."  Of course, I thought it in that cynical tone that implies that one is highly observant of the shortcomings of one's own society. In my defense, you haven't really experienced capitalism until you see small brown children begging for candy in a Coach store.

As soon as I thought that, though, I saw my niece and my own kids and I thought the same thought, far more softly and in a far different tone this time, "Yeah, this is so America."

"Cute, right?"

Thing is, to you, these may be just some cute kids.

When I looked at these kids in the middle of the Canal Place, though, I remembered something incredibly poignant.

Without America these children would not exist.  Were it not for this nation... their parents would never have met. I think that's pretty cool.

I think that's something to be proud of, too.

It's all fine and fun to be cynical, but every now and then, we should remember that we are a good people, a kind people, a unique yet diverse people, and that we have an extraordinary capacity for personal generosity and carving awesome pumpkins.

Just saying.

That was a good pumpkin, yo.

Happy (very early) Halloween.


Nola Lily

City of music and magic
Longing to hear her song
Whispering in my ears
Song of songs, singing Nola Lily.

Adorning our lives,
Our hearts, our hopes,
Shimmering in our souls,
Jewel of jewels, darling Nola Lily

Welcoming this life
Carry our light with you
Glowing in my heart
Light of lights, precious Nola Lily.

Flower of New Orleans
Soft, sweet newness,
Springing upon us,
Dearest of dears, our Nola Lily.


This past week, MBTD and my dear friend, Traci, who happens to be married to him welcomed a beautiful baby into this world.

May she grow to be wise, strong and good.

May the world and its people praise the day she came to them.

May she always know that she is loved and cherished.

May we, her family, always remain worthy of her love and respect.

Insh'Allah, Ameen.


Sunday Brunch at Commander's Palace

NOLA: Day 3

Sunday morning brunch at Commander's Palace. From the moment we walked in the door, I knew this place was amazing.  The staff are exceedingly friendly to the point that I started thinking maybe they had mistaken me for a celebrity or budding Secretary of State.

The building was constructed as gift by Emile Commander and intended as a wedding present for his daughter in 1880.  According to some of the staff I spoke with, his daughter broke off her engagement, so Mr. Commander decided to turn the house into a restaurant.  Their approach to Sunday brunch is classic New Orleans style: a decadent ambience that stops just short of complete sensory overload.

Commander's Palace Brunch The view from my table.

Great Music, of course Great Music, of course

Sunday brunch at Commander's consists of choosing one appetizer, one entree and a dessert.  I think this is pretty brilliant because I'm just moronic when it comes to "buffet strategies."

I selected the Bayou Black Satsuma Salad, which I now refer to as "HEAVEN."

For my entree, I ordered the Griddle Seared Gulf Fish, which I call "MORE HEAVEN."

And for dessert, the traditional Pecan Pie.  

If loving Pecan Pie this much is wrong, I don't want to be right.

My brunch companions, Traci, N. and Tariq had good stuff, too.

Tariq had bread pudding.  In my opinion, "bread pudding" is a tragic oversimplification of how good this pudding tasted.  They should call it "Rock Your Socks Off, Make You Scream For More and Cry Like a Little Child Because You Will Never Taste Anything So Lovely Anywhere Else" Pudding.

N. had the most wonderful pancakes ever and Traci's turtle soup had a lovely spicy undertone to it.

I know because I forced everyone to give me a bite of everything they ordered.  Including the people sitting next to us.  No, not really.

To my credit, I shared my food, too, because I'm a good person like that.

Good person.  Mostly. Good person. Mostly.

As the brunch wound to a close, the musicians started moving around to different tables and taking requests.  They played "When the Saints" for us, but, prior to that, they played "You Are My Sunshine" for the table next to us.  Which is my girl's favorite song.

It was without a doubt the highlight of our trip as far as she was concerned.

In case you haven't noticed, Commander's Palace was a huge hit with me.

Not just because of the food, but also because, in a lot of ways, it's representative of why I love this city so much.  The delicious food, the history of the building, the lively music, pretty colors, and the staff that treated us with not just courtesy, but actual human warmth... were symbols to me of the eclectic and deeply diverse culture of the city our country I have come to know and love.

I love New Orleans because it's an enduring symbol of the fact that Americans can boast of a very real, beautiful and organic culture.

A very, very, delicious culture that induced a three hour nap less than thirty minutes after the meal.

Dinner at Mother's and Game Night

NOLA: Day Two

Traci and N. baking cookies, taken with iPhone Traci and N. baking cookies

Traci (who I will now stop calling "Jill") started the day off right by teaching my daughter how to bake chocolate chip cookies.  An auspicious beginning.

Of course, I didn't try the World Famous Ham.  Of course, I didn't try the WF Ham

We went to Mother's for dinner.  We stood at the door for about ten minutes before we realized you have to go to the counter and order for yourself and, then, you sit down and wait for them to bring the food to you.  Keep your receipt because they will ask you for it when you sit down.  I'm assuming no receipt, no food.

The place has a nice warm atmosphere, and the staff was really friendly in that homey kind of way.

It was fairly clean. Personally, when I'm searching out "authentic" food, I tend to dismiss restaurants that are "sterile."  They just don't feel right in terms of authenticity.  Blame it on my previous travels in Asia, if you must.

Mother's also has a wall of famous people photos.  My only regret is that I didn't snap a photo of the picture of Johnny Cochran hanging on the wall.

I ordered the seafood platter with potato salad and french fries because those were the only two sides that didn't have pork in them.  So bummed that the "greens" had sausage.

Fried Catfish, oysters, shrimp.  Fried Catfish, oysters, shrimp.

The food was good, but not absolutely fantastic.  I also forgot that I don't like catfish.  My daughter seemed to like it, though.

Notable exception: potato saladMother's has the best potato salad I have ever tasted. And I'm not a fan of potato salad.  Unfortunately, it was so good that I forgot to try to guess what was in it before I scarfed it down.

I also realized that B.E. Earl's suggestion that we should have gone for breakfast was right on the mark, the breakfast menu made me dizzy with mouthwatering visions of pancakes, grits and fantastical descriptions of eggs.  Earl, I assume you're going to be your usual graceful self and not comment, "I told you so" anytime soon.

After Mother's, I attended my first NBA basketball game.  Hornets v. Oklahoma City Thunder (?). We got cheap seats, but it didn't matter because the view was great and we had an amazing time.

The nosebleed section.  Not as bad as it looks. The nosebleed section. Not as bad as it looks.

I've never been a huge fan of basketball, but I am now.


I'm in awe of how those men moved and the way their intentions seamlessly intertwined with one another. Intentions then manifested into fluid physical motions that accomplished that seemingly simple, yet extraordinarily complicated task of just getting the ball to go through the net.  Or conversely, from stopping the ball from going through said net.

Really, it was extraordinary.  If you've never been to a professional basketball game, it's a must.  I would even go so far as to say: the great pyramids of Egypt, the Taj Mahal, and an NBA basketball game.  Do those before you die, and you may leave this world with a far greater understanding than most of the magnificent depths of humankind's abilities.

Finally, here's the highlight of my evening.  There's nothing that makes me love my husband more than when I look at him and see this.

The man is just beautiful.  Inside and out.

My favorite view during the game. My favorite view during the game.

* All these photos were taken with my iPhone because I left the "wire thingy" (I've been told it's called a USB cable in some circles) at home.