Goodbyes in the Big Easy

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After a fun-filled week of beaches, good food, canoeing, painting, escaping from rooms, and tons and tons of laughs, we headed to New Orleans for the last couple of days with my dad and stepmom.  New Orleans is truly a one-of-a-kind city and it surprises me every time I visit.  I’m a sucker for all the jazz, bright colors, voodoo, and nightlife.  Oh, and the food.

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We stayed by the French Quarter so that we could walk everywhere we wanted to go, which was a huge bonus because I AM ADDICTED TO POKEMON GO NOW.  I caught some pretty good stuff.  I’m going to be so depressed if Turkey does not have Pokemon Go by the time we get back.  After walking by all the horse-drawn carriages and street artists, we decided to stop for some good Cajun food, which ranks only slightly below Mexican food in my book.  I am a sucker for anything spicy and I love me some good seafood.

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It was sooooooooo good…especially the grilled shrimp and crawfish.  We also couldn’t skip out on dessert.  We were already stuffed, but we still managed to shovel in some praline bread pudding.

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I’ve never seen such happiness on his face.

We walked  crawled over to the French Market with full stomachs to browse the little shopping stands.  It seemed so orderly compared to all the crazy bazaars I’ve gotten used to.  We ended up grabbing a couple of eclectic voodoo doll prints and some sunglasses (since the whole world has basically become a giant grave for all of our broken/lost sunglasses).  I would’ve loved to buy more stuff, but you know…suitcase space. It’s precious.

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After a little shopping, we wandered over to Bourbon Street to admire all of the beautiful houses and cool off with some cold ones.

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The combination of French charm and Southern flair was on point.

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Of course, no trip to New Orleans would be complete without a stop at Cafe du Monde for beignets and chicory coffee.

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Someone pulled the sugar lid prank at our table.

We ended our night by catching some Pokemon along the water and heading back to the hotel for unlimited free wine for their social mixer hours.  It was pretty hard to leave after so much fun with everyone!!  This will definitely not  be our last visit to this fun and funky city.

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Embracing Imbalance

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This summer is shaping out to be a little different than I imagined it would be.  I envisioned carefully calculated days, disciplined studiousness, and a whole lot of reverse culture shock.  To be honest, I’m pretty amazed at how easily I’ve adjusted back to American life.  All of the little habits I have spent the past year trying to unlearn came back instantly and naturally, just like riding a bike.  I’ve also gone into full on summer mode (as you can probably tell by my recent posts).  No work, no worries, no studying unless I feel like it (and I usually don’t).  As much as I would love to have a nice bit of writing done or a few books checked off of my Goodreads list, I also want to cherish every moment I have this summer because the time I have with my friends and family here is so limited.  I want to remind myself of who I was before I moved across eight time zones because some days it can be so hard to forget.  I know it might seem like we are bouncing from vacation to vacation (not that we don’t travel a lot – we do and we are very fortunate to be able to do so!), but we spend SO much time working and I’m realizing now just how badly I needed a break from that.

So maybe my French and Turkish won’t improve leaps and bounds the way I had intended. Perhaps that Goodreads list will have to wait a little longer.  I am perfectly happy to be spending this time doing whatever the hell I feel like doing because I know it won’t last forever.

DIY Drink and Doodle

DSC_0017Picture it:  We all woke up on Friday after a fun night of partying and a good night’s rest. My dad finally had the day off and we had it all planned to take some family photos together and then spend the day out at the gulf canoeing and catching some water Pokemon.  The weather had other plans.

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Rain, rain, and more rain.  It was sounding a little too familiar. Searching for a backup plan, my stepmom suggested going out for Drink N’ Doodle, a group painting activity where you paint with an instructor while drinking wine.  We all thought it seemed like a fabulous idea…until we saw that it was all booked up, except for the option that cost $45 a person.

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So what did we decide to do?  Have our own damn Drink and Doodle!  We bought canvases, paints, and brushes and laid out a giant tarp for all of us to paint on.  My stepmom made some delicious sangria and we all got to work.

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I can’t believe I had never thought to do this before.  I have always enjoyed doing arts and crafts, even when I’m not amazing at it…and, of course, I love wine.  We ended up spending ALL DAY painting.  It was so cool to see everyone so focused, unleashing their creativity.  It was probably the best therapy ever.

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The end results were so awesomely different.  After we proudly displayed our work to dry, we all sat down to enjoy some much-deserved pizza.  Talk about turning around a rainy day!

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Seriously..if you’re looking for the perfect relaxing day in, this is it!

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

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You can’t have an American summer without going to at least one baseball game.  There’s a minor league stadium here in town…and with $7 tickets and $1 snacks and sodas, it’s pretty hard to beat.  We were rooting for the Mobile Bay Bears (They have a cool logo!), but they didn’t come through for us.  Still, we had a great time!

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Good times and great company!  It really surprises me that more people don’t go out and support their local baseball teams-the stadium was practically empty!  Especially since it’s about as cheap as entertainment gets.  I’m hoping to catch a couple of Royals games in KC while we’re in Kansas for a few weeks!

Alba Beach: A Tiny Slice of Paradise

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We are back at my dad’s in Mobile, where we also met up with my sister and her boyfriend.  We’ve been having a lot of fun catching up as a family!  We’ve also been spending just about every day at the tiny beach that is just down the street from their house.  When we came here a couple years ago, the beach was mostly covered with trash and twigs, but since then, the neighborhood has come together to clean it up and turn it into a great little space for everyone to use.  It just goes to show that there is power and potential in even the smallest of communities.  We’ve really enjoyed it!

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I’ve got lots of love for this little space!

Welcome to Spectre

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Fun Fact:  Not too far from my in-laws’ place outside of Montgomery, AL lies the fictional town of Spectre.  Anyone who is a fan of Tim Burton movies probably recognizes this hidden gem.

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I got giddy like a schoolgirl when I realized that this place was here.  Honestly, I’m shocked it’s still around.  Spectre was actually built as a movie set for the movie Big Fish way back in 2003…they just decided never to take it down.  Over a decade later, most of the set is still standing and very much intact.

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The amount of detail on some of the houses was really surprising.

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Of course, we absolutely loved that they still had the signature shoes hanging at the town’s entrance.  It appears that people are still coming here to hang their own pair.  We were wearing sandals, so I guess we’re not cut out to be permanent citizens of Spectre.

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Still, we were happy to settle for being visitors.

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Thank you for the little dose of whimsy, Spectre.  And thank you, Alabama, for keeping this alive!

Peachy Keen at Peach Park

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Me and my MIL at the giant peach

After a rather rough first week back in the States, it was nice to spend a weekend out and about to distract us from all of the recent chaos.  We made a trip out to Clanton, AL, which is famous for its peaches.  I mean, you can’t really say you’ve been to the South if you haven’t stuffed your face with peaches, pecans, and fried everything.

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This right here was the highlight.  Peach cobbler and homemade peach cheesecake ice cream.  Fresh. Refreshing. Decadent.  Perfection.  It was hard to keep it down to one scoop!

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There isn’t much that beats the smell of fresh peaches in the sunshine.

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Of course, we couldn’t walk away without buying some delicious things in jars.  We got peach butter, peach hot sauce, peach jam, homemade pickles, and peach salsa.  I can’t wait to devour it all!

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Last, but not least, we were fascinated by this creepy trash can.  Is it a bear?  A pig?  A mix of both?  Either way, it was delightfully terrifying.

If you’re in the area, keep in mind that you don’t have to go all the way to Georgia to get good peaches!

Sweet Home Alabama

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A last look at home before we took off

After a long flight and horrible trip through Homeland Security, we finally made it back to the good ol’ U.S. of A.  It’s amazing how strange and familiar everything seems at the same time.  There has been a lot of eating (OMG Mexican food!), catching up with family, and lazing around trying to get over jet lag.  We’ve started off our adventure in Alabama, where we will be splitting most of our time between Montgomery and Mobile.  Here is a little peek into what we have been up to:

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Bonfires and beers on the beach in Mobile

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Beautiful sunsets and perfect water

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Deciduous trees!  We haven’t seen this many of them in awhile.

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As many cups of filtered coffee as I can get my hands on

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A little taste of Turkey for family and friends

Life is good.

Hello, Summer

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End-of-the-year Bosphorus cruise

It is officially my last day in Turkey for the school year.  This time tomorrow, I will be en route to the U.S. for the first time in almost a year. I’ve neglected to post much recently.  Partly because it’s summer and I wanted to unplug for a bit, but also because it’s been difficult.  Between the tragedy that has recently struck Istanbul, some tragedy a little closer in our circle, and emotional end-of-the-year goodbyes, I haven’t had much energy or inspiration.  It’s definitely time for vacation!

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End-of-the-year cruise, after complimentary drinks

We also just returned from an interesting trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina, but that’s a story I’ll tell a little later.  For now, I’d best get back to doing laundry and my Tokyo Police Club playlist.