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FERRAGOSTO 2016: New Orleans

4 Apr

I only just barely qualify as a Millennial (and even then only because the state of Pennsylvania wouldn’t change my birth certificate so I could refute that title forevermore), so while I don’t have the “if it’s not on Instagram, it didn’t happen” mindset, I do suffer from “if it’s not on your blog, you’ll never recall it” syndrome. Being on the border of  today’s annoying younguns means that I’ll be old pretty much by tomorrow– so although the 9th annual FERRAGOSTO, happened 8 months ago, we’re talking about it now before JetSet and I reach the age where we can’t remember whether or not we brushed our teeth in the morning.

And this is truly one year not to forget: for years, JetSet and I have debated inviting others to our bizarre, tradition-driven little jaunts, and this year we finally found just the right beta tester–none other than the beloved DonQuixoteKef! Since you will see him only in the same teeshirt and cargo shorts from here on out, here’s what he looks like when he’s not in his trademarked travelwear:

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Alright then, on to it: wouldn’t be FERRAGOSTO if the shenanigans didn’t start off right off the bat. Immediately upon landing in the Big Easy, we had to find an urgent care that was still open because I had fallen while running in DC that morning, went to work all day, and then decided that our first order of business in New Orleans would be seeking out someone to stitch me up. As one does.

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Seven sutures later (3 internal, 4 external, for the curious among us), we were on Frenchman Street, where the beignets were frying and the brass bands were playing:

After eating more fried food than was healthy, we strolled the French Quarter, which was made infinitely better when we realized we could get our craft cocktails to go. Feeling the itis and the time change, we decided to call it an early night. We headed back to our beautiful and well-located AirBnB, but not before one more stop at our soon-to-be favorite take out bar, The Franklin. This is when I realized that I had become the third-wheel on my own vacation.

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Toasting the age old question: why ARE there so many songs about rainbows?

The next morning, JetSet took off an a hot, humid, long run and DonQuixoteKef and I took a pilgrimage to find the brick memorializing his grandfather at the World War II Museum  Along the way, we made the obligatory stop at Cafe du Monde, enjoyed the beautiful architecture, and popped into the Lafayette Cemetery. The great news about wandering around a new place with DonQuixoteKef is that he stops to read all the plaques, and then generously summarizes the interesting parts for you. That’s service with a smile, people.

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Just before lunch, we caught up with JetSet post-run and set off across the Mighty Mississippi to the 15th Ward, Algiers.

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We poked about, ate lunch at the super sweet Tout de Suite Cafe, and headed back across the river. We were having a great walk along the river, when a torrential downpour came out of nowhere and we had to go all Esmeralda and claim sanctuary in the St Louis Cathedral.

…but first, we took a selfie.

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We walked between raindrops, NOLA style–which is to say we followed the awnings from bar to bar. This was the perfect time to be in a group of three, as at any given stop only two of us really felt like a beverage so we could keep the afternoon under control by alternating drinking and seltzering without anyone feeling left out. And to think, just ten years ago I was partnered with DonQuixoteKef so he could help me finish off the second 40 taping our hands together, and now we needed each other for the sobriety triangle. #ReallyNotMillennials

After witnessing a strange Porsche Parade complete with police escort (no, really…) we continued our rainy walk through Louis Armstrong Park and into the Treme.

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We swung by the storied Kermit’s Treme Mother in Law Lounge, where we instantly killed the vibe a few regulars had going at 4pm on a Saturday afternoon.

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On the upside, we did learn a ton about a the eponymous New Orleans Jazz legend, thanks to the 30For30 style documentary they had playing on loop.

Finally, we stopped by St. Augustine Catholic Church, which houses the Tomb of the Unknown Slave.

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On this October 30, 2004, we, the Faith Community of St. Augustine Catholic Church, dedicate this shrine consisting of grave crosses, chains and shackles to the memory of the nameless, faceless, turfless Africans who met an untimely death in Faubourg Treme. The Tomb of the Unknown Slave is commemorated here in this garden plot of St. Augustine Church, the only parish in the United States whose free people of color bought two outer rows of pews exclusively for slaves to use for worship. This St. Augustine/Treme shrine honors all slaves buried throughout the United States and those slaves in particular who lie beneath the ground of Treme in unmarked, unknown graves. There is no doubt that the campus of St. Augustine Church sits astride the blood, sweat, tears and some of the mortal remains of unknown slaves from Africa and local American Indian slaves who either met with fatal treachery, and were therefore buried quickly and secretly, or were buried hastily and at random because of yellow fever and other plagues.

Even now, some Treme locals have childhood memories of salvage/restoration workers unearthing various human bones, sometimes in concentrated areas such as wells. In other words, The Tomb of the Unknown Slave is a constant reminder that we are walking on holy ground. Thus, we cannot consecrate this tomb, because it is already consecrated by many slaves’ inglorious deaths bereft of any acknowledgement, dignity or respect, but ultimately glorious by their blood, sweat, tears, faith, prayers and deep worship of our Creator.

A humbling reminder of the power of taking responsibility for our country’s dark history and the tremendous amount of work left to be done to undo the oppressive systems left in its wake. End rant.

We headed back to home base, took a nap and a shower, then headed to dinner… of course with a stopover to see our friends at the Franklin. For the record, I am generally a woman who drinks about one glass of wine per week… but when I realized I could strut about with my champagne, I was just bubbling over with excitement (har har har). We ate a delicious meal at Peche, then went for cocktails at Arnaud’s French 75.  Anyone keeping track realizes that, by this point, my whopping four drinks in 24 hours had me feeling like a million bucks, so I abstained when JetSet and DonQuixote stopped by Franklin’s for one more roadie.

And yet, somehow, I still participated (instigated?) this late night selfie stick session

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which devolved into my brother and I DEMANDING that Don Quixote join, in a ruckus very similar to an entire amphitheater full of fans chanting “one more song!” that didn’t end until the man himself appeared

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and finally agreed to “snuggle and selfie” with us

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two of these people are related by blood, and one of them is sorry he ever set eyes on the FamiliaKef. You do the math.

 

And then, like a rockstar who suddenly realizes the groupies he thought were hottie-patotties are actually thirty-something siblings, DonQuixote was gone as quickly as he came.

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Suddenly, it was morning, and we decided to be industrious grown ups again. A quick trip to the oddly all-inclusive convenience store down the street for provisions revealed the sign JetSet hopes one day to hang on his office door:

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It was our last day in the Big Easy and we were on two missions: get to the Audobon Zoo, and find a muffuletta on the way. We achieved the latter first, which gave DonQuixote just the boost he needed to rebound from the night before and trek across the city, plus all the calories he needed for the next four days of non-travel detox:

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Luckily, we were greeted with perfect weather for our final hours, and we managed to squeeze in the Zoo as well as mini-campus tours of Loyola and Tulane, plus an attempted-but-ultimately-barred jaunt through one of New Orleans’ most exclusive gated communities.

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We zoomed home on by streetcar, and snapped this lovely shot:

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And that, friends, wraps up FERRAGOSTO 2016. No word on where we’ll head this year (or whether DonQuixote’s Stolkholm Syndrome is severe enough to agree to join us again), but as it is the TENTH ANNIVERSARY, we have some exciting possbilities in the mix.

It won’t, however, be Cleveland:

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Birthday Recap & Apple Cashew Cupcakes

23 Sep

Last week I had a birthday, which was so wonderfully celebrated that I have to share.

I had five whole days off, so I made a tour of all things Kefi. Let’s start with the amazing wedding of a longtime friend, XTKef!

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FianceKef and I had such a blast catching up with old friends (and their way-cooler-than-us moms).

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Just when we thought the wedding couldn’t get more fun, there came the bagpipers! Congrats, XT and Ciaran!

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Next, FianceKef and I got both our families together for their first-ever meeting. We had such a lovely time, did a little wedding planning, and WokeUpLikeDisKef was so thoughtful as to pick up gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan cupcakes from Sprinkles for my upcoming birthday. FianceKef and I drove all the way home with big old smiles–we’re so excited for our families to get to know each another.

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On my birthday itself, FianceKef completely outdid himself. We had plans for dinner at Lincoln, and when he realized he would be late, he called ahead and ordered me this lovely glass of bubbly!

photo 2We had an amazing meal, including the second-best brussels sprouts I’ve had in DC (first being the to-die-for brussels dish at Zaytinya).

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But the fun doesn’t end there–I still had one more day off! So, I met up with these two beauties for my first-ever barre class:

photo(1)Even though I was so sore that I struggled up the stairs for three days, I had a great time, found muscles I didn’t know I had, and I can’t wait to go back.

That night, all of my very favorites got together, and even made me delicious gluten-free, sugar-free apple cashew cupcakes!

photo 4 photo 5And that, my friends, is what brings us to today’s recipe: apple cashew cupcakes! SummitKef used this cupcake recipe and iced them with this super-easy, could-be-vegan-but-why cream cheese icing. I loved them enough to one before our dinner was delivered, one after dinner, and two for breakfast the next morning. Since I was clearly on the verge of a massive birthday binge, I brought the remaining left overs to work (where people know about a quality baked good) and they were universally adored.

Thank you so, so much to everyone wished me a happy birthday–it truly was! Special thanks to the Babes for braving the world of gf/sf baking (without so much as a nut grinder!), to GingerKef for always singing the Stevie Wonder version of “Happy Birthday,” and to NoLongerClevelandParkKef for catching Gingey belting it out!

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The Great Guster Ride of 2014, Creme Brulee, and the East River Park

28 Jan

There ought to be a word or phrase for a weekend so good it keeps you smiling through Monday. I’m fresh out of ideas- anybody have a suggestion?

I skidaddled up to New York this weekend for a Welcome Back dinner for JetSet Kef that included several of the usual suspects, most of whom have been on the roster for more than a decade. The idea was this: JetSet Kef and I would convene a strange mishmash of the people who made our respective lives at the same college really fun, throw in some adult beverages in a chic setting, and watch shenanigans ensue.

Before I reveal if said scheme resulted in said shenanigans (spoiler alert: it did), I have to introduce today’s recipe: a playlist for an awesome spin session. Settle in kids, this might be a long post.

Last week was a tough training week with back-to-back BRICK work outs (long bike ride followed by a medium-long run). As such, I was not really feeling like going to the gym before taking the train up to NY and would have preferred to just sit around laughing at pictures from college on The Facebook that were posted when Facebook still used the preceding article. Then the solution came to me: I could drag myself to the gym and psych myself up for the night to come all at once by blasting the tunes of 2004 while spinning. Problem solved.

So began The Great Guster Ride of 2014. It was a big risk: my music collection in those days was marked by mostly indie pop (forgive me, Jean Grae), which is not exactly the music I listen to these days to do anything, let alone to get my blood flowing.  Plus, my relationship to the college era is a complicated one–let’s just say I had a lot of fun about a third of the time, but never really fit in with the vast majority of people at my school, most of whom probably still listen to indie pop. Enough said? I thought so.

ANYWHO, as I began my time on the bike I got really nostalgic–we crammed a lot of fun into some long nights and very small apartments.  I spent a lot of my ride thinking about what luck it is to keep in touch with people who knew you at some other point in life when you were a blurrier, less-sure version of your self, and what a joy it is to get to watch them become distinct, fuller versions of all the different selves we were trying on back then.  I left college on a very different track than the one I thought I came in on and, like many of us, my life has gone in directions my 20-year-old self could never have imagined. I feel so glad to know that there are people out there who still appreciate my humor after I decided becoming a heady, humorous writer (who would invite them to all the Vanity Fair parties) was no longer my path, who still come to visit me after I  discovered New York is not, in fact, the only acceptable place to reside, and who still love me after all those years of overwrought hand wringing about how I could balance the life I live and the work I do. Of course, there were thing that made me sad, too– friends I’m not in touch with anymore, people with whom things used to be easy but are now awkward, and missed opportunities. But that’s another ride and another playlist. Before I knew it, 26.2 miles and 1:04 had flown by.

Which brings us to the dinner. JetSet Kef and I are committed to eating at as many Tables for Two restaurants as our budgets and waistlines will allow (tellingly, he has the advantage on both counts). QueijoKef suggested Lafayette, which was an awesome pick — sophisticated without being pretentious, great service, and a menu that makes up in perfect execution what it lacks in innovation. I drank French 75s all night and JetSet and QueijoKef treated the other diners to Jay Z’s verse in “Heart Breaker.”

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Two sets of siblings plus some other fun connections- and one is from Alabama. Volume turned, unapologetically, to TEN.

It’s amazing what ten years can do.

Just when it seemed the night could not get any better, our Joseph-Gordon-Levitt doppelganger of a server brought us a complimentary creme brulee that was the biggest we’d ever seen

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Forearm inserted for scale.

and had the most PERFECT brulee, as tested by JSK and GeographicHegemony Kef.

photo-75Flash forward a cozy drink at a cool East Village bar and one fight about $3.00 soda water later, and it was 9:15 am and JetSet Kef and I woke up in his wonderful bed without having to snuggle with a sibling because he had the good sense to buy himself a grown-up queen-sized bed instead of using the twin bed he has had since he was ten.

We went for a windy run in East River Park, and I wish I had a picture of my brother because all the cold gear spandex made him look like he was auditioning for the Blue Men group.

Thanks to East River Runner for the picture!

Thanks to East River Runner for the picture!

After some spinach stew, I hit the road and was blessed with the quietest, most traffic-free Greyhound bus ride that has ever been. We left at Port Authority at 4:05 and arrived in DC exactly 4 hours later. Isn’t life grand?

So you can see why I’m still smiling. Now, for your listening and maybe spinning pleasure, I present you with a list of the songs that I thought were really cool/deep/fun during college. For the spinners in the crowd, I have noted the drills/intervals I used during each song. Don’t like how I used the music? You just go right ahead and do you.

An Uncharacteristically Indie Playlist to Spin to While Thinking of Hilarious Things that Happened in College

  • Caring is Creepy – The Shins (warm up)
  • Island in the Sun – Weezer (end of warm up)
  • Sound of Settling– Death Cab for Cutie (6/10 tension, 75-80% race pace/sprint during chorus)
  • Let Go– Frou Frou (seated climb/sprint during chorus)
  • Come Down Stairs and Say Hello – Guster (long climb- start at 5.5-6, add 1 full turn every 45 seconds, stand when you have to)
  • Happier – Guster (endurance climb- pace matches beat, maintain 7.5-8.5 tension)
  • Just for Now– Imogen Heap (recover until verse stars, maintain race pace through remainder of song)
  • Girlfriend – Phoenix (energy ride)
  • Hollaback Girl– Gwen Stefani (80-90% race pace at 6 tension for 30 sec/ 45 sprint at 7-7.5 tension)
  • Young Folks – Peter Bjorn (ascending sprints 30,45,60,75 seconds with 30 sec recovery between)
  • Two Points for Honesty– Guster (whatever steep standing climb you have left in you)
  • Don’t Stop– Brazilian Girls (endurance climb- pace matches beat, maintain 7.5-8.5 tension, seated during vocals, standing at instrumentals)
  • California – Phantom Planet (rolling hills- incline during verse, downhill sprint during verses)
  • Something Pretty – Patrick Park (cool down)
  • In the Waiting Line– Zero 7 (end cool down/ stretch)

Protein-packed Gingerbread and Gin-laced Champagne

13 Dec

Last night was Thursday, so you already know what 10 million Americans and I were doing: watching Kerry Washington try to hide her pregnancy behind thick woven fabric and close camera angles.

It goes without saying- the winter finale of Scandal was totally absurd (btw: when did winter finale become a thing?). Thankfully, Shonda finally started taking advice from the Department of Wait-That-Is-Too-Ridiculous-Even-For-Us  and forwent the temptation for cliffhangers… but can we just deal with Quinn, though? Her failure to spontaneously combust continues to vex me, and now this beef bologna between her and Huck is just, well…. dumb.

ANYWAY, I had the honor of hosting a Scandal night after many lovely evenings in NoLongerClevelandParkKef’s house. As there are more seats on a red line train at 515 PM than there are in my living room at any given time, I figured I would make up for the sardine conditions with some cookies and cocktails.  I always get nostalgic for holiday cookies, so decided to whip up a batch of these paleo gingerbread men and one of my favorite cocktails, the French 75.

photo-69These gingerbread men were good- all the gluten and sugar eaters in the crowd went back for seconds and thirds. I liked them because the texture was crisp and chewy, and they were definitely sweet but not too sweet. This recipe would also be good if you wanted to make gingerbread protein bars at anytime of the year. You get extra points if you make these cookies in the shape of DC:

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I think I cut off a little of Foggy Bottom- sorry, GW!

 

On a side note, I find that coconut flour is already pretty salty and most Paleo recipes do not make up for this in the added salt, so they did have a slightly salty taste to the end of them (but not nearly noticeable enough to keep us from eating the whole batch!). Follow The Paleo Mom for this and many more awesome recipes.

So those were the cookies… now the cocktail. I love a sparkling wine- champagne, cava, prosecco…if it gives a “pop!” when it’s opened, I’ll drink it. A French 75 combines all the loveliness of bubbly with the 1-2 punch of gin and orange liqueur, and apparently earned its name because it “was said to have such a kick that it felt like being shelled with the powerful French 75mm field gun.”  Well then. Dubious name or not, this drink is just delightful.

French 75

Ingredients

  • 1 oz gin
  • 0.5 oz orange liquor (I used Grand Marnier)
  • 0.5 oz lemon juice
  • champagne, lots

Assembly

1. Pour the gin, orange liquor, and lemon juice into a martini shaker with ice cubes. Shake well.

2. Pour the gin mixture into a champagne flute.  Top carefully with champagne.

3. Try not to drink ten.

 

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