A Common Man’s Guide to New Orleans

 

I’m a frequent flier of New Orleans, we have family there and I’ve been 3 times in the past 5 years… and will probably go a million more. So today I thought I’d just do a quick and easy post about my top 5 favorite spots/things to do that won’t break the bank and are totally worth your time.

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First: Take a Haunted History or Vampire Tour (both posted here). The tours are about $25 and the guides are excellent. Both tours are an evening stroll through the French Quarter (with a pit stop at Lafitte’s Blacksmith bar… get the purple drink! trust me!) full of neat stories, anecdotes, and history. They are genuinely fun and entertaining, and a great way to get your footing in the area.

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Second: Dat Dog! omgggg Dat Dog! You may be thinking to yourself, Stephanie I did not fly all the way to New Orleans to eat a hot dog BUT YOU ARE THINKING WRONG. I absolutely WOULD fly all the way to New Orleans to eat a hot dog because they are glorious and delicious and I need one every day for the rest of my life. I strongly suggest you go to the one on Frenchman Street, sit on the upper balcony, order a beer with your dog, and listen to the brass band that plays on the corner ever night. YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU. datdogfrenchmen.jpg

Third: Sit yourself down at The Funky Pirate and listen to some blues. I am not a crazy Bourbon Street person, but this place is always a must for me. It’s so chill, and the house band is so good, and there’s a little back patio if you need a breather, and the drinks are poured heavy and priced low. The seating is kind of cafeteria style- big long tables for you to sit with your group or make new friends. I just love it here.
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Fourth: If you’re feeling adventurous, and in need of a break from the day drinking, hop on a swamp boat tour: THIS swamp boat tour. There are a lot of options, but I had an amazing experience with this company. They picked us up at our hotel, drove us in a van to the swamp (about 45 minutes from the Garden District), we took a wonderfully narrated and interesting tour, then they dropped us back off on the front steps. This is another one where the tour guide was amazing and totally made the whole experience fantastic. This is hands down the best thing I’ve done on any of my NOLA trips

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Fifth: Get tickets to see the house band… specifically the house band… at Preservation Hall! Preservation Hall has no electricity, no bathrooms, no bar… just church pews in an old shutter covered building. And it is a magical musical experience you must have. (Don’t worry, you can scoot across the street to Pat O’Brien’s for a delicious hurricane and  a pit stop at any time!). You’ll get your blues fix with The Funky Pirate, but you’ll get your jazz fix here. You’re welcome.4812583266_5659f5030c_z.jpg

There’s so much else I could rattle off to do! It really is such an awesome, fun place and I highly recommend it. Have you been? What was your favorite part?

Creating a Cruelty Free Home

If you’re a regular around here you know we’ve got a little zoo of animals: 3 cats and 2 dogs. Both our dogs were adopted from a rescue, 1 cat was adopted from a shelter, and the other 2 cats were taken in by people who could not keep them any longer.

I also volunteer for a few different rescue organizations, and basically my life goal is to pet every dog in the world. SO, that being said, I’ve decided to  make a more conscious effort to buy cruelty free products for my home and life. I’m not going to throw away everything we’ve got now, but I can replace it with better choices when it runs out- and so can you!

For the past few weeks I’ve been digging deep in to the Beagle Freedom Project website and they’ve got an app (Cruelty Cutter) that allows you to scan all your products to see what is cruelty-free and what isn’t. Holyyyyyyy cow a lot of companies test on animals! For no reason at all! My husband and I were so shocked and sad as we walked around the house scanning everything we own.

All this to say…. there’s some great cruelty free products out there and here’s a list of some I already have and love in case you’re interested. ALSO important to note… just about every cruelty-free product is also an all natural and/or organic product. Which kind of makes perfect sense when you think about it, and makes it an even better idea to switch over.

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1. Cleaning Products

Overall I think we need to chill out on the cleaning chemicals, so frankly this is a move I’d make either way. These two brands are awesome all  natural and cruelty free, and while they’re a little more pricey then my beloved Dollar Tree Fabuloso (don’t judge me!), they’re clearly the wiser choice.

  • METHOD is a great cruelty-free option, and it’s sold at Target and the grocery store so it’s an easy switch. I have shower spray and hand soap by them, both of which are excellent. Once my current dish soap (Dawn) and specialty cleaners (Windex, Weiman granite & carpet cleaners) run out I’ll replace those with Method brand products (specialty cleaner list here)
  • Mrs. Meyer’s  is another great choice, particularly for laundry detergent and air fresheners (Febreeze is not cruelty-free!)

2. Bath/Shower Supplies

This one is tricky for me because I have psoriasis and need to be super cautious, but  some of my stuff was already ok. WHEW.

  • The Body Shop is my go-to already for face wash, toner, and face lotion and luckily is cruelty free. (This 4 piece kit goes on sale every now and again, and I stock up when it does).
  • EO Products makes all sorts of stuff, including shower gel and lotion. I pick up this brand at TJ Maxx and Marshalls, but it’s on Amazon as well.
  • Surprisingly, CVS Brand products tend to be cruelty free as well… soooo that’ll be my next shaving cream!

3. Make Up

This is another tricky one, because I likes what I likes for my makeup. But it’s probably the most important one to switch out.

  • Bare Minerals has been a favorite of mine for years, particular for their foundations and powders. I was so relieved to find they are cruelty free!
  • Burt’s Bees has all sorts of good skin and lip care, I recently bought their new BB cream and it’s lovely.
  • Too Faced is a brand I’ve heard of regularly, but don’t currently own anything from. They’re next on my list!
  • Dickinson’s makes the cut as well, and is super cost efficient. My husband uses their toner every night so I’m happy to see he can keep doing so!

What else do you use that’s cruelty free? Is this a change you’re willing to make?

Brave New World

It’s a weird new world we live in now- if you’re at all like me you’ve been hyper attached to the news since January 20th and more aware then you’ve ever been in your life. Which sounds like such a good thing, but unfortunately it’s not driven by such a good reason. I’m so privileged to have not really had to worry about these things before now, and further privileged that I still don’t really need to be and am just now choosing to be. 

It’s become more and more important to me to make decisions with a purpose, to very intelligently and peacefully #resist. I am not at all what I would consider an activist, but I do care deeply about feminism and animals and the environment and education- so I guess in this Brave New World I am now an activist. It’s not a super comfortable role for me, so most of it at this point means I’m encouraging my students to be kind and to do the right thing and I’m forcing myself to read things that I otherwise would ignore and I’m making more purposeful donations each month and I’m watching more documentaries and overall I just want things to be good and smart.

I catch myself thinking passively, thinking I don’t care who you voted for as long as you’re kind to others and treat people as equals- but that’s not right. I do care. There was a wrong choice. 59% of the country voted, and less than 50% of those people voted for our new leader, and that is really a strangely depressing fact. If my math is right, less than 30% of the entire country voted for our new leader? How is that ok? What have we done? I am very concerned.

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Our parks and our animals need funds and care. Global warming matters. Bees as an endangered species is a problem. Did you know that if all the bees died we’d only survive on earth for something like four years? FOUR YEARS! Holy cow. And that if it’s not required to disclose how many animals you’re testing products on, and what those animals are, then rescue groups can’t come in and take those animals and place them in loving homes when you’re done with them? They just go in to ovens and then they’re gone and I could cry just typing that. UGH. Why on earth in 2017 are we even still testing products on animals in the first place? But that’s a whole other issue…

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Elizabeth Warren has been on the news so much for her speaking out (or maybe just my news? because I’m watching “liberal” news?) and I know people don’t like her and that’s fine– but one of the more concerning responses is that she needs to watch what she says because no one listens to an angry woman and that is what really bothers me there. Men were permitted to read the same letter she was not. Several men, in fact. WTF. Maybe you don’t like her, or don’t like democrats, whatever (ugh, there’s that passivity again)… but my real issue here is that your gender should not have to dictate your opinion and tone and delivery.

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I was recently nominated by some students at work for a Women’s History Month award, which is lovely and the second time I’ve received it (alongside other amazing women here where I work) and one of the questions the student interviewer asked me is what it is important for other women to know– and the answer is simple– that we need to advocate for ourselves and for others. We are not in competition with each other. We need to support each other, and raise each other up, and give praise instead of shade. Such a simple concept that we all seem to be struggling with so much.

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And really, I don’t mind differences of opinion- but if you have a green card you should not have a problem entering this country. And if you have a religion you should not have a problem entering this country. And I don’t care how much money you have, or where all your damn hotels are located across the world, people should be treated equally. Do you know how insane the vetting process for refugees already is? Because they go through rounds and rounds of surveying and evaluations and questioning and it can take years and it is not easy and I feel like you should probably read the darn policy before deciding it doesn’t work.

I don’t know. I have a lot of thoughts about this stuff, and I think a lot of people do, so we should talk about it. What do you think? What are you reading? What are you watching? What are you going to do? Has it really only been ONE MONTH? Because holy cow I’m tired already!

 

Travel Bug

For the past few years I’ve gotten in to the habit of booking vacations to get me through the winter- December/January in New England can be lovely (fresh snow! sledding! movie days!), but it can also be a real bummer. For example, as lovely as it is that we are getting up to 12 inches of snow tomorrow, we are also getting up to 12 inches of snow tomorrow. I usually book my summer vacations in December to give me something to look forward to– and this year I booked three. #sorrynotsorry

March

In March I’m headed to New Orleans for my niece’s wedding, which just so happens to be St. Patrick’s day weekend. My husband’s whole family is going to be there and a few of us rented a house together- I can’t wait! This will be my third visit to NOLA, and my husband’s fourth, so we’re going without a real plan or schedule. At this point, we know where we like to eat (Dat Dog!) and the spots we like to frequent (Three Muses! Funky Pirate!) so we can nudge our family in that general direction but otherwise just go with the flow.

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taken in 2014: that architecture! that tree! :: le sigh :: I am in love with the Garden District

April

Me and three of my girl friends are headed to Vegas for a few days in April! I’ve been twice but honestly hated it both times, so I’m hoping this will turn things around. The first time I went was for a friend’s wedding, which was lovely but because of work commitments I could only stay for about 30 hours. It was so rushed and chaotic, and not only did our room get messed up but I booked Circus Circus because it was the cheapest and it turns out my husband is afraid of clowns. Whoops. The second time I went was for a conference, I went alone and my anxiety took over so I never left the hotel. Ever. I stayed at the Flamingo, which is gorgeous, but everything is so big and crowded I somehow managed to convince myself if I left my room I’d never find it again so I skipped meals and ordered room service and basically became a sad Vegas hermit for three days. THIS time though- I am ready! We’ve got tickets to Britney as well as Penn & Teller, a hotel with a heated pool, I’ve got my anxiety (slightly) under control, and I’m ready to rock! Hard rock! Hotel! (pun intended, of course.)

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Britney I’m comingggggggggggggggggggggggggggg!

June/July

My husband and I are in the process of planning out a two week trip overseas with some of our friends! It’s going to be amazing! We’re planning on visiting London and Paris with a few day trips in between (Scotland? Wales?) and I can’t wait. This will be our first big international trip (we went to a Sandals in the Bahamas a few years ago, but that doesn’t really count as international adventure), and I feel super ready. We’ll have a loose schedule- a few planned spots a day, but the rest open to romantic wandering- and we’re looking in to houses to rent throughout our time. Have you ever been? Any spots you’d recommend?

 

 

 

Hello, 2017.

I think I’ve started 4 or 5 drafts of this post in the past month and I’ve deleted every one of them. It has been a weird month, and there’s just not much to write about I guess. Or I don’t have the words for things I want to write about. Now that we’re in a new home that doesn’t need much work, I really need to re-define/re-evaluate the purpose of this blog. I’m not sure I’m going to continue it. Or maybe I’ll just pop in once a month, or maybe just once a season, with updates/thoughts/ideas. I’ve sort of lost steam for social media based interaction lately…. I’ve been blogging here for over 5 years and my interests and focuses have changed.

I’ve done a few house things (patched a hole in the wall, built a stand for essential oils, used my new bread maker obsessively), but otherwise I’ve just been hibernating- as I do most winters. Winter in New England can be so pretty, and it’s especially pretty in our brand new woodsy house, but it also means I generally want to spend time under a blanket with some tea and my pups. After the rush of the holidays I taught an accelerated evening course on top of my full time job (which means I worked 8-4, then 4:30-8 for 9 days straight), while dealing with the flu, so most of early January was a blur. Once that cleared up I got back in to a regular day-time work schedule, but I’m also teaching two online classes. Life is busy, but the classes translate into vacations (yeah yeah yeah, and savings too- but mostly vacations!). My husband and I have a few days booked in New Orleans for a family wedding, I have a trip to Vegas planned with some of my girl friends, and tonight I’m planning a summer London/Paris trip with my husband and another group of friends. We’re in a fun season of life where we both have good full time jobs, and minimal expenses, and no children. So I’m squirreling away some money (new septic tank, addition to the house, retirement) but also giving myself the freedom to just have fun and explore and adventure. It’s exciting and freeing, and I look forward to it all.

Also, and I know we’re all tired of being on either side of it, this election has got me so deep in to reading articles and looking at historical patterns and asking questions that it’s sucking up a lot of time I would otherwise spend thinking about house projects and goals. I’m reading articles on NPR’s website constantly, and “unfollowing” Facebook people/pages so I’m not barraged with things that infuriate/frustrate me, and talking to like minded peers about how to appropriately “fight back” in an educated and organized manner. Feminism has a bad rep, and maybe I can help with that? In a tiny tiny way?  I think it’s safe to say that as a 31 year old female, in New England, with a career in education… I am not a fan of our new president. But I’m also not super good at being involved in things. Instead, I’ve identified charities that may need help throughout the next few years and we’ll make one donation a month, and I’ve educated myself so I can have fact-based discussions instead of pointless banter, and I’m tiptoeing in to attending some marches. I desperately wanted to go to the women’s march but we had a family obligation and I couldn’t, so I live streamed what I could of it and it looks like there’s an interesting next step planned for April.

ANYWAY- If you’ve made it this far in my ramblings thank you… I don’t know what’s in store for this little section of the internet but I expect some radio silence and maybe a change in direction.

Top Ten Gifts for the HOME

A few days ago I shared my top 10 stocking stuffers and today I’m hopping back in with my top 10 gifts for the home.

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Please note some links are affiliate, which means I get a small commission if you make a purchase but the cost of your item does not change. Thanks for supporting Sandpaper and Glue!

  1.  Himalayan Salt Lamp: I have one of these in my office and really need another one for my bedroom. The glow is so calming, plus it cleans up allergens and does all sorts of other amazing things. Buy one for someone on your list, and send me one too please.
  2. Christmas Plant/Bouquet: This is ideal for friends/relatives that you may not see over the holiday. I was gifted this rosemary plant by the company and I’m going to try my darnedest to keep it up and running until spring so I can plant it outside. The gift that keeps on giving!
  3. Cast Iron Pizza Pan: We bought this over the summer and use it about once a week. It cooks up the absolute best crust you’ve ever had.
  4. Nate Berkus anything: Berkus all the things! You can’t go wrong with anything from his line at Target. Throw pillow, ceramic dish or bowl, offices supplies- just buy it all.
  5. Butter Bell: We’ve been using this very butter bell for a few years now and I love it. It looks nice on the counter and keeps butter spreadable all year long.
  6. Wall Hanging: Secret Harry Potter reference? Yes please. I love that this keeps it nerdy, but not super overt.
  7. Table Top Terrarium: If you have friends with cats, who desperately wish they could have houseplants, get them this. I have several (cats and terrariums…). 
  8. Watercolor Print: I have personally taken a water coloring class with this lovely lady and let me tell you, she is the real deal. Check out her shop- there’s holiday art but also great nursery prints and florals.
  9. Rubbermaid Tupperware Set: Ok so maybe this isn’t the most glamorous gift in the world, but it’s a good practical one. In a fit of rage I threw out all my mismatched butter containers and bought this set and then I never looked back. 
  10. Literary Throw Pillow: The colors! The artistry! There’s a good bunch of books to sort through, be sure to browse around the shop!

So there you go- one list of stocking stuffers and one list of home stuff, personally recommended (and for most things, tried and tested) by me. Any other lists you’d like to see on here? What’s your go to home gift?

10 Amazing Stocking Stuffers (for Him & Her)

I wasn’t initially going to post gift guides this year but I’ve just found so much good stuff lately that I have to share, and there’s still plenty of time left to have all this ship. I’ve got stocking stuffers today, and then a “for the home” guide post coming in a day or so.

Since I don’t presume to guess what’s for “him” versus what’s for “her,” this stocking stuffer list is all chunked together. How’s THAT for smashing up gender norms! 😉

Without further ado, here’s my top 10 stocking stuffer ideas for 2016:

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Please note some links are affiliate, which means I get a small commission if you make a purchase but the cost of your item does not change. Thanks for supporting Sandpaper and Glue!

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  1. Diane’s bobby pins : I know this seems like a simple one, but seriously- where do all the bobby pins go? This is an easy, appreciated gift.
  2. Literally anything from Mortal Threads: I stumbled across this site on Instagram and have already bought 3 t-shirts, but I want everything. For the geeky/horror nerd in your life, this site is excellent. They have home decor, clothes, accessories, and more.
  3.  Open It: I got this for my husband a few years ago, but it was secretly for me too. Keep it in your kitchen and use it every day, it’s fantastic.
  4. Personalized Return Address Stamp: Always a go to for newlyweds and new homeowners! I wish I had bought mine before I wrote out 900 Christmas cards…
  5. Makeup Brush Set: My husband bought me this very set a few months ago and I love it. I’m not super in to make up, but this is easy to travel with and not overwhelming.
  6. Ootie Bow Ties: Ootie sent me a free bowtie for my husband and it is such good quality. 10/10 highly recommend. (why yes, that IS a BB-8 bowtie in the picture. and it’s adorable.)
  7. Self Marking Tape Measure: Isn’t this the coolest? It’s on my list this year.
  8. Left Center Right (dice game): This is a great game for kids to teach direction. However, it’s an even greater game for adults if you swap out the discs for $1 bills or scratch tickets. Keep it classy with a little kitchen table gambling, my friends.
  9. E.L.F. cosmetics: I’ve been using e.l.f. products for years and years. They make great brushes, but lately I’ve been using the highlighter stick, bubble mask, primers (I’ve three!), and lip exfoliator. I’ve yet to be disappointed, and the cost is so good.
  10. Cocktail Grow Kit: Well this just seems like a blast! I love me a good themed garden.

 

What else are you stuffing stockings with this year? Any hot new items I need to know about? Tell me everything.