Saturday, March 9, 2013

New Orleans MS Walk

Birthdays, Big Easy and a Walk for MS

February 21...Happy Birthday, Jason!

Today is my step-son's 30th birthday and because of our trip to New Orleans we will have to miss the big family party this weekend. :-(  As a consolation for our absence we had a great dinner last night with Jason and Kassie (daughter in law) and we sent them home with homemade cookies to share at the weekend celebration. 

I spent last weekend making the dough for the cookies then 3 nights this week finishing them up...that's always the fun part, the decorating! I wish my friends or family were able to help, it's always so much fun with a crew, but with a cheery circus theme I entertained myself with kid-friendly colors and designs inspired by the granddaughters.

The circus comes to town...

tray by tray... tray!

These photos are for my dad who started the tradition of making sure we always have cookie pics.

Dad and Suz, I thought you'd enjoy the dancing bears especially. :-)

Kangaroo with a final greeting...Happy Birthday J.J...sorry to miss all the fun!
Friday, February 22nd:

Off to New Orleans for the MS Society's fundraising walk and the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon! It was snowing when we left but after a turbulent flight we landed in warmer air...rainy but 65 degrees...I'll take it!
The women in the airport restroom must have thought I was crazy but I must say the renovations at MSY airport are fantastic. I had to snap this shot of the beautiful fresh flowers on every sink in the Ladies Room.

The banner shows that the floral touches are in honor of the late, great Louis Armstrong. From the bathrooms to the new rental car facility to the dining and shops, this airport was almost unrecognizable from my trip here just last year.
After landing and getting luggage we made our way to downtown New Orleans. With the MS Walk tomorrow morning and an event tomorrow afternoon I need to get my race check-in done today at the Expo.
Must be in the right place!

The convention center downtown, home of the Expo for race check-in.

Grey skies but no snow or ice, unlike the northeast which is getting buried right now.
We left the Expo to meet my friend Ashley who has graciously allowed us to rent her extra room for the weekend. Last year we stayed downtown, directly across from the French Quarter. That location was actually very convenient but as it turned out also quite noisy, congested and very pricey. With all the hotel rooms I stay in throughout the year it is soooooo nice to stay in a home for a change, what a relaxing treat. And to be outside of the craziness surrounding Bourbon Street will be a real plus!

This is Milan Street where Ashley lives. I learned that NOLA has a unique way of pronouncing their street names completely different than spelling would suggest. For example, Milan is not pronounced like the town in Italy but instead it's actually pronounced "MY-lin". Go figure. 

Upstairs on Ashely's balcony. A break in the rain makes for a perfect evening outside.

The view down Milan street from Ashley's balcony.

Jim is checking in with the office via cell phone...must be 'casual Friday'.
Aside from the wonderful perk of staying in a home this weekend we didn't realize that our room came with our own personal concierge and tour guide, the fabulous Ashley Graham! With her knowledge of The Big Easy and an understanding of our basic weekend schedule Ashley treated us to a local's view of the best New Orleans has to offer. Tonight's plan, a relaxing dinner at a nearby neighborhood cafe.  We had the opportunity to meet a few of her friends and to learn so much of NOLA's storied history in the process.

Ashley has become friends with the owner here at the Hi-Hat Cafe. (Michelle S., of course I thought of you when I saw this sign. Fear the turtle!)

Ashley and Jim enjoying a visit while we wait for our table.

Tonight's specials...already feelin' the Nawlins' vibe!

Ashley knew so many of the "neighborhood regulars" here at the cafe that it felt like we were back at home enjoying the downtown Greensboro crowd.

I had to get the roasted beets and goat cheese salad special, yum!

A sampler of appetizers with a local flair: New Orleans bread (unique recipe for crisp outside, light and airy insides specifically for the Po Boy style sandwiches), deviled eggs, pickled okra, pimento cheese.

The Trout Meuniere special sold out but Ashley ordered a redfish prepared the same way along with a Brussels sprout salad.

Vegetable plate for me: Stewed tomatoes and okra, French green beans, cornbread and a side of mac-and-cheese. Most of this came home with us as leftovers... too much to eat for one person.

I don't even know what Jim ordered...not too appetizing for a vegetarian like myself but apparently Jim loved it.

Goodbye, High Hat... we're ready for an early bedtime curfew, big day tomorrow!
Saturday, February 23rd:

We did our best to ensure having a good night's sleep by getting to bed before 9pm last night. Mother Nature however had other plans for us. The rain and lightning and thunder were relentless. Hours and hours of such strong storms that I could actually read by the light of the lightning! I kept thinking that, surely, the MS Walk scheduled for 8:00am this morning would be canceled because the lightning was still in full force when we gave up trying to sleep at about 5:45 am. Unexpectedly, the storms stopped at about 7am so we made our way to Audubon Park to register for the charity walk.

For anyone wondering why the MS Walk is important to me, there are 2 main reasons. One, I have close friends battling this disease and I would like to do what I can to support finding a cure. Two, foot drop is a common symptom of those living with MS and I want to walk in honor of everyone dealing with foot drop, a condition I know all too well.

Water, water everywhere.

Groundskeepers were out trying to pump water away from paths and parking lots.

We arrive early as organizers are setting up.

This water is not supposed to be here but it looks pretty as a lake.

Jim came armed with rain jacket AND umbrella as he donates to the MS Society's fundraising drive.

Buying some raffle tickets to help the cause.

Slowly the troops begin arriving despite the gloomy forecast.

Hundreds of folks enjoy the free coffee and bagels from Panera before the walk starts.

Men and women from this MS team were all wearing tutus...definitely "too too cute".

More supporters.

More water.

More clouds rolling in again.

Festive teams brave the dreary weather to fight for a great cause.

I couldn't resist my free alligator at the Cajun Families Living With MS booth! Don't ask me what I'm gonna do with him but he's so darn cute I had to have him.

Pharmaceutical vendors came out to share information on the latest breakthroughs in research for treatments. Hopefully soon the research will yield a cure.

The mud made it difficult to get to all the vendors.

The MS Society should be so proud of their community in New Orleans. Despite the weather, the energy and support among the crowd was outstanding. 

What's an event in Nawlins without a huge batch of dirty rice?

The crowd rolls in en masse just before the official start of the walk.

Jim and I ready to show our support as the walk begins.

It was great to see so many families and folks of all ages out walking in support of finding a cure.

Duck weather.

Teams walking behind us...

...and in front. 

Views in Audubon Park are very eerie this morning.

The mansions along one side of the park are spectacular...this is the back yard of one of them.

With foot drop being a symptom for so many people living with MS, we wanted to show our support this morning. It was great meeting our new friends out here and being inspired by those who refuse to let mobility issues keep them down.

Immediately after the MS Walk the sky threatened rain again. Jim and I ducked into a cool little cafe called Satsuma we discovered outside of Audubon Park (Ashley later informed us that a Satsuma is a type of orange native to Japan but grown for centuries along the gulf coast, including here in Louisiana.)

I wish we had more time here but we had a big day ahead of us. They have great smoothies with organic ingredients to blend into anything you can dream up. They also have a full, fresh food menu and organic coffees.
We were happy with our coffee under a dry roof but would have loved to sample more of their offerings.

The coffee was great after a chilly morning in damp air!

I loved how they built the coffee counter... I took this photo to save in my idea file for future reference.

A quick photo of the specials board before the skies opened up...

The MS Walk was a great experience and I look forward to corresponding with some of the new friends I met there. Now it's back to Ashley's for a shower and dry clothes and then off for the afternoon's events surrounding the Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon.

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