Monthly Archives: October 2011

From Bay St. Louis with Love

Six years ago on August 29 Hurricane Katrina decimated the Gulf Coast. The resulting 30 foot storm surge caused massive devastation to the coastal community of Bay St. Louis. But, like their neighbors they continue with the rebuilding process. Two weeks ago after opening festivities in NOLA, the family and friends of Brandon and Haley headed just twenty miles east of the Louisiana / Mississippi state border to BSL for their wedding and reception.

Bay St. Louis Post Katrina

The celebration was held at Bay St. Louis Community Hall, the first public building constructed since Katrina… a new beginning for the town and for Brandon and Haley.

Ready for the Party

There is no one I know quite like Haley, so I knew this would be no ordinary wedding. The wedding was filled with personal touches from the two of them… think Oklahoma and NOLA meet Boston. Seriously though, I’ve never left a wedding with so much swag. They even made sure the bottles of Crystal met the TSA Liquid Requirements.

I mean... GLAM

But, it wouldn’t have been a wedding for a boy from New Orleans without a Second Line.

K-I-S-S-I-N-G

 Laissez le bon temps rouler!

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Ode to Commander’s Palace

Just over a week ago I tasted the best dessert I have had. Ever. This post is really a love letter to Commander’s Palace for creating the world’s greatest bread pudding. Excuse me… soufflé. This is a bread pudding soufflé that is served with a warm whiskey cream sauce. (I told you it was the best dessert ever.)

What sin looks like...

The combination of flavors and taste sensations is sinfully good. I mean, CP itself says, “Go ahead be a little bad…  that’s what living in New Orleans is all about.” Preach  it! The soufflé is also the perfect end to the dining experience at CP. From the moment you arrive you are greeted to the point of annoyance and then doted on for the next several hours. (And, you all know how I love to be doted on.) I had the Turtle Soup followed by the Griddle Seared Gulf Fish… each flavored and cooked to perfection.

My life needs more turquoise restaurants

Dinner at CP was the unofficial kick-off to the wedding weekend of Haley and Brandon. (More on that in a later post…) The weekend was filled with good food and good friends, but no meal topped CP. It has actually replaced Galatoire’s as my favorite New Orleans’ restaurant. It also helps that it is located in one of the most historic and adorable parts of the city, the Garden District.

Danimal, Me, Momma Cass, Haley Bird, Pepper at the Rehearsal Dinner

In addition to the wedding weekend, Danimal and I were permitted to kidnap our adorable niece Annabelle for Friday afternoon. She was such a good baby as we forced her to adapt to our schedule (something actual parents would NEVER do) and drug her on a parade of cuteness through the French Quarter. 

Aunt Fun and Uncle Danimal

She is still not quite sure about us.

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Chuck and Duck Sculpin, Royal Coachmen… Yep, We’re Fly Fishing!

Dan began stirring before dawn trying to decide which gear to bring. (He was ‘too excited to sleep’…)  The rest of us were dutifully ready by 8:00a.m. since we had been invited to join Dan on the ‘best day of his life’. Dan began fly fishing about six months ago and quickly fell in love. And now it was D-Day…  the day of our Montana adventure where we had hired two fly fishing guides to take us down the Madison River… and hopefully catch a copious amount of fish.

Doesn't 'fresh clover' really make that fish pop?

Some of my favorite memories growing up were fishing with my dad and in Cutler Bay with the Bonnots so I was excited and nervous to try fly fishing for the first time. The casting is very different and I wasn’t sure how I would do. I LOVED it! I still have a long way to go to improve my casting. Long way. But, thanks to our incredibly patient and hilarious guide, Jim Morrison, I made a lot of progress throughout the day.

 

Team Rob

Now Meg had NEVER been fishing before. Naturally she caught the very first fish of the day, a 16″ white. Meg, JRob, and their fearless guide, Braden Powell, managed to bring in nine fish for the day.

The happiest Danimal ever and Jim

The Madison River isn’t stocked which means all the fish are wild making them tougher to catch. This didn’t stop Dan. He caught the largest fish of the day, a 20″ Rainbow Trout.  (Told you it was the  best day of Dan’s life…) Jim + Braden (based in Ennis, Montana) were incredible guides. If you are headed to Montana, our group gives the two of them eight thumbs up. In total we caught 18 fish that day.

A better view of the prize

This post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning one of my favorite things about fly fishing… the names of the flies. Just to name a few… Woolly Buggers, Fly Formerly Known as Prince, Rojo Midge… I could go on and on.

Tying flies is an art

While the day was Dan’s, it was a great day for all of us. In addition to catching tons of fish, it was breathtaking to experience the Madison Valley from the water. When you head to Montana be sure to add this to the “to-do list”.  You know how we are a group that loves a good list.

Look no farther than your nearest Orvis for all of your fly fishing needs. Seriously, they have fantastic customer service, top of the line gear, and great dog beds (not that you need that for fly fishing).

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I Spy A Gajillion Wild Animals

When you have four Type A personalities who can’t really function without checklists suddenly vacations have goals and necessary milestones. I know what you are thinking… why can’t we just relax? Great question.  As you enter Yellowstone the Park Ranger gives you a paper and a wildlife checklist. Checklist??!! Did somebody say checklist??!! Game on.
 
Our FIRST wildlife… Elk!

Not even eight minutes in and we checked our first item off the list. I pretty much got out of a moving vehicle with my camera to get the shot. Turns out elk are all over the place. We of course didn’t know that at the time. We learned quickly that the best way to find wildlife was at dusk, dawn, or to look for droves of tripods with paparazzi cameras. (I may or may not have been told by one of the tripod people that I was too close to this particular elk.)

These puppies are huge

There are even more bison than elk. They like to block traffic, and they are never in a hurry. At one point when we were in Hayden Valley observing these huge bison and some wolves, a helicopter came in to drop a carcass. They hadn’t found the bear who killed the hiker in August and they were trying to lure more grizzlies to test their DNA. It was like CSI meets Animal Planet. (They do think they finally identified the killer bear.)

Pretty Bird

JRob has aspirations to be a birder. (Nerd Flag) He even brought his Birds of Yellowstone book on the trip. This black, grey, and white, Clark’s Nutcracker, followed us through Lilypad Lake.

Bald Eagle – CHECK!

Bald Eagle in a nest… WHAT!!! How freaking awesome.

Mule Deer

We had been looking all week for mule deer. Right after this one, we saw a doe and her babies. Adorable.

Almost a Big Horn Sheep. Almost.

Now to the only animal sighting disappointment. Big Horn Sheep are tough to spot. We all were very excited when we saw what we thought were sheep scampering along the cliffs. Turns out they were just mountain goats. Still cute, but NOT on the checklist.

We also saw a coyote, fox, pronghorn, moose, chipmunk, squirrel, and GRIZZLIES!!!! We actually saw five grizzlies… a sow, her cubs, and two others that tried to get their kill. It was awesome. And don’t worry mom, it was from a safe distance. We watched them for half an hour with a group of about 15 other people. The ultimate checklist item deserved a toast.

Let’s toast with some Scape Goat

Fortunately we had stopped at the General Store to buy a six-pack of Scape Goat (awesome local brew) to celebrate appropriately. And for those of you keeping score, I started drinking beer this trip. Finally.

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Smells Like Geothermal Activity

I really think JRob summed it up perfectly when during our first day in Yellowstone he simply said, “Earth is cool”. The size, variety of landscape, and abundance of wildlife was overwhelming. It makes you feel like you are living an episode of National Geographic. In a nod to what formed the park (and makes it smell), today’s post is a salute to all things geyser. And no, Old Faithful isn’t the only one… there are roughly 10,000!

There She Blows

Everyone knows about Old Faithful. It is arguably the most well-known attraction of the park. We went preparing to be underwhelmed… I mean if everyone else likes it, why would we? How could we and all the people wearing wolf t-shirts think the same thing is cool? Turns out Old Faithful is not to be missed (and cool). The wildest part is they can predict when she will blow +/- 10 minutes, and when she spews it lasts anywhere from one to five minutes. 

The Solitary Geyser

Just up the hill from OF are a series of other geothermal wonders. Each is a different shape and some sort of wild color (especially in the sunlight), but they ALL smell like rotten eggs. Another rule we learned… NEVER touch geothermal areas. Not only is the water crazy hot, the sulfuric acid associated with it will burn you… it can eat through the soles of your shoes. 

Even acid can be pretty...

They really pop up out of nowhere, one minute you could be in a grove a trees and the next happen upon another geothermal zone that seems as if you have landed on Mars.

From the forest to Mars

Warning: There is a lot of Yellowstone coming your way in the next few days. I’m still pretty geeked out over this place.

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There was an Earthquake. And now there is this AWESOME lake!

On Day 2 of ‘Atlanta Takes Over Montana’ we headed over to Quake Lake. Located in Madison County, the lake was formed in August of 1959 as a result of an earthquake that measured  7.5 on the Richter Scale.

Quake Lake

The quake killed 27 people who were camping at Hebegen Lake at the time. Today the lake is one of the most unique features of the Madison Valley. If you are driving from Big Sky or West Yellowstone to Ennis, one of the only ways to get there is to go past Quake Lake… and you really should. It is like no other lake I have seen. The old tree tops still reach above the lake. 

Fresh Clover made its first debute!

We happened upon Quake Lake because we were headed to Ennis for the day. I will definitely highlight the adorable little fishing town in a future post. But, before we get to that… a major red flag that we saw upon arrival.

Opposites Attract

A saloon that serves Chinese food just doesn’t seem right!

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