I’m back… with very big news!

Hi blog friends. Happy Halloween!! Are you celebrating?

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[Having one of these babies for breakfast this morning is the extent of my celebration. Recipe coming up in the next post! Smile]

It was really amazing to take this much needed break from my mile-long to-do list. But I’m back. It feels great, really great, to be back!!

During the break I made sure to focus only on things that brought me joy. I spent hours reading books at night (and weekends). Hours watching tv (you knew that was coming, right?). And many more spending time with Adam, attending blog-related events (only the fun ones… like the Boston Brunchers anniversary brunch, dinner at Aragosta… pictures of those coming up soon on my Facebook page; and a rum tasting at a new local distillery… more on that soon too) and having drinks and dinners with family and friends.

Surprisingly, I also spent time cleaning (Adam will tell you not enough…but it was more than nothing) and organizing. I took the whole “dump the to-do list” mission seriously, so spending any time cleaning was pretty impressive. When I did, I actually had the urge to do it. Yup, miracles do happen.

I also rediscovered my love for (easy) running. Nothing crazy, just 3 milers on the treadmill. And lifting. It was fun to sleep-in on weekends and then on my own time (instead of the gym class schedule) do the workout that got me excited for the day. Good stuff.

Oh yeah… I also QUIT MY DAY JOB!!! Party smile [It may not be news to you if you’ve been following me on Facebook or Twitter…]

Yup.

While I’ve been unhappy at my job for a few years now, I was not planning on doing it this soon. This is a very big decision as you can imagine. Adam and I have been budgeting for this day for a while but it seemed like without a concrete plan there was never a really good time to do this. And at the end of the day, no matter how prepared you are – fears can always make you question yourself. It’s easier to take the “safe route.” I had a very stable job that paid well. If I ever doubted my abilities at my profession, the response to my resignation reaffirmed just how valuable I was viewed to the team.

But. At the end of the day it is important to follow your heart. I know very deeply in my heart that Adam and I will be ok. More than ok actually. We’ll be good. And that my happiness will make our marriage and family stronger. Not the money (we won’t starve and we’ll have a roof over our heads with a big kitchen and a garage <—our 2 requirements in our next home).

I also very quickly learned that nothing is irreversible. I know that if nothing else, this will be a learning experience for me. I hope that by taking a break from office work, I will be able to finally discover myself… and maybe figure out what I want to do when I grow up. Winking smile It may be finance (and I have dozens of people willing to give me glowing recommendations and a standing offer to have my old job back, any time). It may be something else.

This was scary, I don’t want to undermine how gigantic this decision is (and how much planning and saving we’ve been doing for over a year). Don’t go telling your boss to f-off without being really ready for the consequences, k? :lol: But this break opened my eyes to what was really important to me. I was important to me. I’ve been feeling for a long time like I’ve been putting my life on hold, paralyzed by fear. I still don’t have a concrete plan for my future but we’ve budgeted for that.

I know we’ll have to overcome a lot of new challenges but I can tell you right now that I am incredibly happy. Like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I know our lifestyle will change completely but I’m ready for it. All of it.

So there you have it. I have one more week at my job and then I’m a free agent. I’ll definitely be spending more time on all things “Healthy and Sane” related and we’ll see what else (I’ve already accepted a volunteer position at Cooking Matters). The world is my oyster (whatever that means). BRING IT ON!!!!

PS – I have the best husband in the world. Just thought that’s worth mentioning Smile

What did I miss over the past 2 weeks??

New Orleans eats and treats

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Hi hi! I’m back. I took nearly 1,000 photos during the trip and needed time to sort through them before I could share them with y’all Smile

New Orleans

Have you ever been to New Orleans? I’ve heard so many things about it before going but I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I heard there was going to be a lot of drinking, the food would be incredible, the music scene amazing and just generally it was going to be crazy fun.

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Sign me up Smile

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The French Quarter was gorgeous. We spent hours walking around there, dropping into shops and galleries of interest. I went a little snap happy Winking smile

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We had a group of 6 so we moved at a slow pace. I found it almost meditative – walking slowly, noticing the beauty around me through the lens.

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[I wanted to take this little puppy home with me!]

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During the trip I also realized how much I needed down time. A few times during the trip, while the guys were out checking out museums or losing money at the casino, I actually chose to lounge on the sundeck of our hotel room – Kindle in hand. It was peaceful. It was relaxing. It was exactly what I wanted and needed. [Btw, I read The Kitchen Daughterwhich was a little sad and definitely emotional but beautifully written and I loved how it romanticized cooking. I made her ribollita soup a few days after coming home!]

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Every street musician we saw was incredibly talented. Loved loved loved the street music! [Aside from the street performers, a lot of times there was jazz or the like playing from speakers somewhere. Music is a giant part of the NOLA scene!]

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Just a few more pics so you can feel like you were there with me Open-mouthed smile [Scroll way down for food.]

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We got two photos from this gallery!

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[This made me realize how much I enjoy jazz. I need to find a good place around Boston. I know Beehive does jazz brunch. Time to check it out!]

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I loved how they added the giant pumpkin to the normally bare entrance. Very festive Smile

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[This place was featured on the Food Network. Have you seen it??]

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Alligator? I’m sort of intrigued…

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So now let’s talk food. New Orleans is definitely an eating city. Creole food has French, German, Spanish, Italian, Native American, etc etc influence. It’s bold flavors. The locals are proud of it.

Our first stop was Café du Monde which is a NOLA landmark!

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These beignets (French doughnuts) were better than I ever imagined. They were warm, and chewy yet soft, not greasy at all. I loved how they were almost savory until you douzed them in powdered sugar.

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Happy beignet consumers Winking smile

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We had a beignet a day for the first few days. Apparently 3 is my limit. I bought a mix and plan on recreating these once the beignet hangover settles.

Some other culinary highlights…

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This is a very popular brunch spot. We had about 30 minute wait which we spend drinking coffee and bloody mary’s outside. Not bad at all.

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I got the bbq shrimp and grits, which were a little bland but nothing some hot sauce couldn’t fix. The biscuits (Southern biscuits!!) were warm and buttery and fluffy. I had a little food envy when I saw Adam’s eggs cochon and Liz’s biscuit egg, bacon & cheese. Definitely try one of those if you’re in the city. Highly recommended!

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Crescent City Brewhouse

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Weiss beer – smooth quality with hints of banana and clove with a spicy finish

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I got a 12oz beer when everyone was drinking 20oz glasses. Can you imagine how much grief I got for my baby beer? And then I didn’t even finish it. Oy. It was super smooth and definitely had banana qualities like the description says. I would happily have another baby beer right now! Smile

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Speaking of drinking, yes – we spent the first night on Bourbon St (crazy and fun for just 1 night) and got the mandatory hurricane at Pat O’Brian’s. It tasted like sweet coolade but we stuck to one a piece based on warnings from all. Their patio was pretty cool with a giant fire/waterfall thingie. <—man, I’m eloquent.

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The next morning, Adam and I found this super cute coffee/wine/crepe shop called Merchant. It was slick (check out that link) yet adorable. I got a ham and cheese quiche (below) the first morning and a fruit parfait the next one. It had full fat yogurt and I felt like I was eating clouds of whipped cream yet it just felt oh so right.

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You gotta eat a proper po-boy when you’re in New Orleans, right?

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I split this giant sub (half oyster/half shrimp) with our friend Andrew. I’m still amazed at Adam polishing off an entire one.

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Honestly, we were all underwhelmed. It just tasted like plain fried food on a subpart roll. Nothing fancy and nothing exciting. I can make a better sub. Yup, I said it.

Now Jacques-Imos was a polar opposite of that experience.

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It’s located in the Uptown neighborhood, far away from tourists. It’s an incredibly popular spot with the locals and we found out first hand why that is. The food was incredible. Incredible!!! And I love how the owners obviously have a sense of humor (see pics above). The wait is normally 3 hours but we had a hookup with the restaurant manager. Sweet!

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This post is getting long so I’m not going to provide much description to each dish. All you have to know is that the following appetizers were one of the best foods I’ve ever had. That includes alligator cheesecake (yup) and the rest. It was so original and flavorful and just absolutely incredible.

Corn bread with garlic butter

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Shrimp and alligator sausage cheesecake

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This cheesecake was featured on The Best Thing I Ever Ate on the Food Network. A lot of other dishes won numerous awards. No wonder everyone is willing to wait for hours for a table!

Fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade

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Crabmeat stuffed shrimp with magnolia sauce

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I also got the mahi-mahi with pistachio sauce for my entrée which I found to be too sweet (actually a lot of times during the trip I seemed to order the wrong thing). Everyone else LOVED their dishes and dessert (crème brulee and bread pudding) once again a show stopper. I honestly could have come back there the very next night and would have been happy as a clam. (Btw, I don’t really know what that expression really means. I’m going to assume clams are very happy. Smile )

The next night we stayed closer to “home” and trusted Yelp that this dive bar was going to be the answer to our jambalaya and Creole dreams.

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After a bit of a wait, we were indeed led into a dive bar. It was dark and quirky (see below) but the service was super friendly and the food phenomenal.

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Crabmeat stuffed jalapeno peppers – served with horseradish sauce

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Redfish Meuniere8oz fillet floured & sauteed with shrimp, butter, lemon, hot sauce, Worcesteshire & wine. Served over rice with Creole green beans

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I licked the plate clean and finally broke my spell of ordering the wrong thing!!

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Ok, I’m getting tired and I’m sure you are too. Quick mention of LukeJohn Besh’s restaurant. This was the most upscale meal we had during the trip (in terms of food quality, creativity and service, not in terms of prices… prices were very reasonable actually!!) and it was flawless. Highly highly recommended.

Etouffee of blue crab and brown shrimp with fennel, garlic, saffron fumet and handmade garganelli

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Brendan’s bread pudding with vanilla bean ice cream and hot buttered pecan sauce

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And before heading back home, we of course had to try the famous muffuletta sandwich which was invented at Central Grocery.

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Yes, there is a long line. Yes, you are in line inside a grocery store.

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And yes, it is absolutely WORTH IT!

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Muffuletta is a round Sicilian sesame bread. The sandwich contains marinated olive salad, then layers of capicola, salami, pepperoni, ham and provolone.

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The olive salad is of course the key ingredient here and Central Grocery’s version includes peppers, carrots and secret spices. It was super delicious! I had 1/4 for lunch and another 1/4 on the plane home for dinner.

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Yum!

New Orleans was a lot of fun but I’m also very happy to be home. I’m sure it won’t be long before we start planning our next trip! I love traveling.

If you were featured on The Best Thing I Ever Ate, what dish would you choose? Tough one, right?

Feel free to also comment on anything you see above. I sure gave you lots of material. Winking smile

PS – I’m taking a little hiatus from blogging for the remainder of the month. As mentioned above, this trip made me realize how much I need down time and I would like to honor this need. I’ll see you back here in November (or maybe earlier if I really can’t wait until then).

Bathroom renovations (+giveaway winner)

Hi friends. I’m still in New Orleans and I’ll wait to do a recap post of all the amazing food we’re eating when we’re back (hopefully by Wednesday) so I figured I’d drop in and announce the winner of the Pomi giveaway and then show you our bathroom reno pics (we just finished the 2nd one a few days ago!).

So, logistics out of the way first… the giveaway winner is #13 – Bridget (that FB extra entrance worked). Congrats!! Please email your address to elina@healthyandsane.com.

Now something totally unrelated to food but I’m super proud of it. The before and after pics of our bathrooms.

BEFORE

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These are pictures of our master bathroom but both the master and the guest bathroom were pretty much identical. Outdated and sort of blah. We’ve wanted to renovate them since buying the place 2 years go!

Adam finally started the renovation of the guest bathroom in March. He did the demo, completely gutting it and sanding down the floor, but just that took way longer than we expected. It was stressing out him and me, so eventually we gave in and hired the contractor to finish the work. It was finished less than 2 weeks later Smile

AFTER (Guest bathroom)

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We LOVE this bathroom so much. It’s sort of ridiculous because I seriously show it off to everyone that comes to our place. I’m such a proud bathroom mama Winking smile Unfortunately, we sort of ran out of $$ to do the same thing with our master, so we decided to just make some cosmetic changes – new toilet, vanity, paint job, some accessories. Here is the after for 1/10 of the cost. Adam’s dad helped with the technical stuff, we painted and finished it off.

AFTER (master bathroom)

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Doesn’t it look awesome too? It still has the old tub and the old tile but just the paint makes it so much brighter. And the new vanity and accessories make it look like it’s from this century! Smile

So yeah, no food for you today. Sorry for talking too much about bathrooms. Actually I’m not too sorry. I think they’re both pretty, despite not being edible. Winking smile

How’s your week going? Have you ever done major (or minor) renovations?

Off to find a muffaletta or something with alligator sausage…

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