Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fun Times with Good People

I started a new job a little over a year and a half ago, and for the first six months of starting there, I was yet to be married, and Lianne was in Tennessee. During that time, I was able to really go out and spend time with my new co-workers. The new company I joined was younger than the company I worked for previously, and in many respects it felt like being in college again. It was really great to have that time to develop close relationships with my co-workers. Lianne and I regularly get together with several of them around food, sports, or karoake. This trip represents one of our first trips with some of our new friends. The special occasion for this trip was a birthday weekend in which abut 10 of us rented a house through AirBnB in New Orleans. The experience was a great one, and so far Lianne and I look almost exclusively for places to stay when travelling just for that AirBnB Experience.

Our flight out of Fort Lauderdale was the first flight out, so we arrived in New Orleans as the day was just getting started. What a great way to start our trip. After getting settled in at the house which was quaint, homey, and well decorated for the New Orleans themed trip, we walked to breakfast at Surrey's Uptown Cafe. It was far better food than I expected it to be as far as just walking to breakfast type of food. We were pleasantly surprised. The weather was perfect as it remained fairly cool and the neighborhood was pretty picturesque right along the trolley route. Although I didn't confirm the stories about this house, several rumors were circulating about it being the house that was used in several of the scenes in Django Unchained, and it just stood out among the other homes as in league of its own.

The first planned event of our trip was a tour of the Old New Orleans Rum Distillery. The weather remained perfect, and most commonly these days when I travel, I like to pack fairly light as far as photography is concerned, which for me means a point and shoot, and a small-sized back-pack that I can bring or not bring with me when we are walking around. If I do bring my backpack, I will typically have just two lenses when walking around, the 24-70mm Macro F/2.8 and a 70-200mm F/2.8. If I don't have my camera out or am at a location where I had not planned to take photos, the point and shoot is what I will use. I also exclusively use Eye-Fi Memory Cards for sharing pictures in real time as they are taken. Many newer cameras are including some sort of wi-fi/posting capabilities, but Eye-Fi has been doing this for a little while, and it is so convenient to change cameras for instant posting and transferring directly to my cell phone whether when travelling, shooting for a client, or even with family.

After the Rum Distillery Tour we went back to our house, and literally walked less than 5 minutes to Dat Dog. If we were staying in New Orleans any longer, I would have eaten here more than once, and I did want to come back several times during our stay. Our first night out on the town was filled with street performers and crowds of people. At certain points the scene became pretty overwhelming, but there were several pockets of quaint local atmosphere that I was refreshed to see among the sometimes sea of people.

The next morning Lianne and I took an opportunity to separate from the group to check out the local zoo. Another beautiful morning for walking and really enjoying Audobon Park and Zoo. Lianne really had a great visit with the elephants and the opportunity to interact with one of their oldest elephants at the zoo. It was an emotional experience that was a dream come true for Lianne. Perhaps, we will see a whole trip dedicated to elephants in our future.

While we were at the zoo, there was an Asian Festival going on, and so while we had some time to spare, just sitting down after walking for most of the day felt great. Little did we know, but there was a feast of crawfish awaiting us at our next destination. One of our co-workers whose birthday it was has family that lives in New Orleans, and they were throwing him a birthday party that afternoon with a Crawfish Boil. We were just spoiled with this awesome hospitality.

I have to admit it was quite the scene of carnage after we were through, I stayed at the table till the very last one was finished, and we built walls of crawfish shells to declare our victory. The chef shown below in all of his glory did an awesome job with the seasoning of this crawfish boil, and I was grateful to have been a part of this awesome local tradition. Lianne and I were pretty tired from a day of walking so although we did go out another night, we didn't last very long and ended up coming back early to get some rest. Although this trip was'nt necessarily intended to be a foody trip, it certainly looks that way from the photos I came away from it with. Another local food spot, Wayfare, was a place we had stopped previously for drinks another afternoon looked great for food, so we decided to give it a try for Sunday brunch. We absolutely loved it.

Sunday was really our last full day, so we adventured out on the town to hit the local market day type events and find the beignet spots, we did stop at a couple masquerade shops to try on some masks as you can see. By later afternoon, early evening we were ready for another pit stop at the Crescent City Brewhouse in the French Quarter.

Monday morning before heading out we took one last photo for the road, good ole garbage can tripod point and shoot photo of the group, hope you enjoyed a taste of our trip to New Orleans!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Beautiful Life

Witnessing Chris and Lynette's journey and the way they live life reminds me how beautiful life is for Christmas' sake. How blessed we are that all it takes is to believe, trust, and surrender to the one true Christmas gift, Jesus Christ. How simple and easy our life becomes when we focus on Jesus as our gift from God. When you experience the peace and relief found in Him it will be hard to deny such an awesome gift. The way I see both Chris and Lynette as living transformations of what God intended Jesus to be in each one of our lives, I am inspired. Not so that I may be more like them, but that I may find the peace and the transformation that believing in Jesus as my gift from God has for me. I hope everyone has a chance to experience the healing life, peace, hope, and love that is Jesus Christ as your gift from God. As the pressures of this time of the year build, I pray that peace and comfort would come over all those with their own personal struggle, and that all those who experience God's gift would be in some way an inspiration to those who have yet to experience Jesus. Merry Christmas!