Five Days in NOLA

SuBill Peche

I didn’t blog on Monday because I was having too much fun here in New Orleans. What a great city… especially in mid November when the highs are in the low to mid 70s and the humidity uncharacteristically low. I’m here with my husband, who is speaking at the American Heart Association’s 2016 Scientific Sessions. This is a huge meeting—Scientific Sessions attracts nearly 18,000 professional attendees, with a global presence from more than 100 countries. In addition, 2 million medical professionals participate virtually in lectures and discussions about basic, translational, clinical and population science. Bill has spoken twice during the five-day meeting. But he has found time to join me on an amazing culinary pilgrimage.

Bill, Tom, Ellen and me at Mariza

Bill, Tom, Ellen and me at Mariza

Friday night when we arrived we went to visit our friends Tom and Ellen Prewitt at their Bywater apartment in the Rice Mill Lofts for drinks on the rooftop. Then we went downstairs to Mariza – a wonderful Italian restaurant on the ground floor of their building. Fabulous atmosphere and food, and great to be with our Memphis-NOLA friends. (Tom and Ellen live around the corner from us in Memphis when they’re not at their NOLA location.)

Commanders groupCommander’s Palace is my favorite restaurant/experience in NOLA, hands down. We went for jazz brunch on Saturday with our son, Jonathan, and two of his (and our) friends, Nicole Marquez and Joe Gravier. Commander’s never fails to offer the best service, atmosphere, cocktails, and food. It didn’t hurt that we got a table on the patio and it was 72 degrees and sunny! Nicole was able to get the jazz group to play about six requests—she has that affect on people! Saturday night we ventured to Patois with Dr. Larry Fine, Bill’s friend from Washington, D.C., also in town for the AHA meeting. Another wonderful place, great atmosphere and food!

 

Galatoire’s was also great fun—on Sunday night, again with Jon. First he joined us at our hotel to watch the Saints vs. Broncos game, while Bill worked on his AHA presentations on his laptop. We cheered for the Saints since we were in town with our NOLA son, but when the Broncos won, we knew our Denver kids were celebrating. Galatoire’s was really our only visit to the French Quarter this trip, and Bourbon Street was hopping. The Saints fans didn’t seem to let their loss keep them from having a good time!

 

with Emma at Octavia Books

with Emma at Octavia Books

On Monday I had a great visit with my friend Emma Connolly, who moved to NOLA from Memphis a couple of years ago to open a shop, Uptown Needle and CraftWorks, on Magazine Street. I love Emma and Robert’s house in uptown. Emma is one of the contributors to the anthology I edited, A Second Blooming: Becoming the Women We Are Meant to Be (coming in March 2017).  We visited Octavia Books to introduce ourselves and leave a press release for the book, hoping to give a reading/signing there in the spring. Wonderful bookstore—and of course I had to buy something. Two things, actually. A Christmas gift that I won’t describe here in case the receiver is reading, and the novel The Muralist by B. A. Shapiro, which I’ve been wanting to read. We had delicious crepes at Toast, just down the street from the bookstore.

Susan w graff outside Ogden

Maude Schuyler Clay at Ogden Museum of Southern Art

Maude Schuyler Clay at Ogden Museum of Southern Art

 

Next I stopped at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art to see my friend Maude Schuyler Clay’s photography exhibit, Mississippi History. I already had Maude’s wonderful book, which included many of the photos on exhibit, but there was something special about seeing the prints in person at the exhibit. She captures the souls of her subjects in such a beautiful, haunting way.

Outside the museum I was happy to discover this wall of graffiti done by NOLA graf writers.

mugAnd then I stopped into the coffee/gift shop at the Contemporary Art Center, just across the street from the Ogden. There is so much art in this city! I treated myself to a new coffee mug as a reminder of my visit

Monday night Jonathan joined us again, this time for dinner at Emeril’s, which is only a block from our hotel. I had never been, and again the atmosphere, service, and food did not disappoint.

"Abstraction" by Will Henry Stevens, ca.1940

“Abstraction” by Will Henry Stevens, ca.1940

 

On Tuesday I ventured out again (it’s pretty easy to drive around New Orleans, by the way) to the Paris Parker Salon on Prytania for a shampoo and blow out (and picked up a few Christmas gifts—it’s an Aveda salon). “Andrea” did my hair when I was here back in June, and it was fun feeling like one of her “regulars.” (She also does the head chef at Comander’s Palace’s hair, which I’ve never seen, but his food is great!)  Next I drove out to City Park to stroll around the lakes and enjoy the breeze and the ducks and geese. NOMA (New Orleans Museum of Art) is in the Park, so I spent about an hour there, appreciating their permanent collection but loving their abstract exhibits, with works by Picasso, Modigliani, Miro, and others. I discovered New Orleans abstract artist Will Henry Stevens (1881-1949). Like Kandinsky, Stevens viewed painting as an almost spiritual experience, a way of connecting people to a universal truth.

beignetsI ended my visit to City Park at Morning Call, where I ate all three beignets covered in powdered sugar with my coffee while enjoying a nice breeze on the patio.

Next I found my way back to Magazine Street to drop by Uptown Needle and CraftWorks and browse a few more shops. (Yes, more Christmas gifts, and a couple of happies for myself.)

Streetcar Spritzer on the porch at The Columns Hotel

Streetcar Spritzer on the porch at The Columns Hotel

Then at three o’clock, when the porch opens at The Columns Hotel on St. Charles Avenue, I was there, enjoying a Streetcar Spritzer while reading a book Emma loaned me—Writers on Writing, edited by Robert Pack and Jay Parini. I was interested in this book, published twenty-five years ago, because I’m editing a similar collection with exclusively Southern contributors (coming out in 2018). I especially enjoyed the Foreword, and essays by Richard Ford and Gail Godwin. Pack and Parini say, in the Foreword, “… the essays all

at The Columns on St. Charles

at The Columns on St. Charles

reveal an underlying commitment to writing as a craft, something that can be passed on from generation to generation of writers, and to the notion of literature as a place where values are tested, where ideas are bodied forth, where the only limits are those enforced by the limits of a writer’s own imagination: limits that, by the paradox of art, make the production possible.” Reading those words got me excited about writing an introduction for my Southern writers anthology!

Su door PecheTuesday night Bill and I had reservations at Peche, which we always enjoy when we’re in NOLA. (Peche has won at least two James Beard awards.) One of the owner/chefs, Ryan Prewitt, is Tom Prewitt’s son. (We had dinner with Tom and Ellen on Friday, remember?) I love how connected our visit has been. So, we arrive at Peche (a short walk from our hotel) just before 8 p.m. on a Tuesday night in November, and the bar crowd is flowing out into the street and every table is full. We always enjoy the whole fish, but we especially loved the oysters on the hall shell.

Bill oysters pecheWe decided to try six Louisiana oysters and six from Alabama. I liked the ‘Bama oysters the best, but they were all delicious! It was November 15… the 47th anniversary of our engagement! Why November 15? It was the night Ole Miss beat Tennessee 38-0 in Jackson, Mississippi. “Archie Who?” (Romantic, right?)

Today is our last day here. After I finish this post, I’m heading over to the Outlet Collection at Riverwalk (a few blocks from our hotel) to do a little more Christmas shopping. Tonight will be our only evening meal that we didn’t plan ahead of time. Our friends Emma and Robert recommended Mandina’s on Canal Street. They don’t take reservations, so I think we’ll show up and see what happens. Tomorrow we’ll drive home to Memphis, stopping at the cemetery in Jackson to visit Mom and Dad, my brother Mike, and my Goddaughter Mary Allison. I know they aren’t really there—but I always feel closer to them when I visit their graves. This has really been a wonderful vacation, even for Bill, who has mixed business with pleasure in his usual seamless way. Thanks for reading—I hope you enjoyed my little travelogue, and can find your way to some of these great places the next time you visit New Orleans!

Mental Health Monday: Besties at the Beach

CNNGo (the CNN travel site) calls the beach “the valium of the travel world.”

The Healthy Travel Blog says:

Maybe it’s the sound of the ocean. Perhaps it’s the salt air, or the feel of the sand between your toes. But there’s now proof from health experts – everybody really does feel better at the beach.

That’s all I’ve got to say today because, well, I’m at the beach for a few days with my bestie. And we both agree our mental health is improving. I’ll be back to more serious blogging on Wednesday.

Thanks for stopping by…. enjoy a few of our favorite memories: sunsets, walks on the beach, cocktails, shopping, dining out…. (Seagrove Beach, Seaside, and Rosemary Beach, Florida).

Susu Daphne Seagrove March 2015

sunset

Pickles

Cafe 30A

Daphne up close

Daphne sunrise

shopping

 

 

 

 

Mental Health Monday: How Can You Be SHOPPING?

girl clothesLast Monday I said that one of the themes I would be following in my Monday posts leading up to Christmas is almsgiving: reaching out to others. Our parish in Memphis is putting together emergency kits to send to those suffering in Syria, Armenia and Iraq. They need baby kits, school kits and hygiene kits.

I put together several infant kits. Shopping for those babies brought me great joy in the midst of shopping for my own granddaughters. But of course that’s only one of many ways we can help our fellow man during this season.

infant kits

I’m in New Orleans for a few days, and tonight as I was walking down Decatur Street, a young woman sitting on the curb near The Christmas Shop started yelling at everyone that passed by. She was talking about people who are suffering in Malaysia, and how we could be so selfish as to be SHOPPING while they are suffering? A group of women walking in front of me were carrying shopping bags. I hadn’t bought anything that night, but I had done some Christmas shopping the day before. I almost stopped to talk with the young woman, but I decided she was so angry she wouldn’t listen. What I wanted to say was that helping people who are suffering and shopping for ourselves or others aren’t mutually exclusive activities. I wanted to tell her that you can do both.

adoptafamilyWhen our children were young, we decided to involve them in a hands-on almsgiving activity. I don’t think we were motivated by guilt—by the amount of gifts we would be giving our own children for Christmas—but by a desire to lead them into the practice of helping others. We “adopted” a family to help. It was a single mom with two young children. Their apartment had just burned down and they had nothing. We shopped for clothes and toys and food and took it to them in person.  I’ll never forget the children’s shy happiness and the mother’s tears of gratitude.

I tell this story to say that it’s not JUST sending money and other helpful items overseas (even to Malaysia) but it’s also helping the person right in front of you. In your own city, or even the person begging alms on the street. The Christmas season is a great time to re-up our efforts to see these people as our brothers and sisters all throughout the year.

Christmas Giving Header copy

Our parish has also supported the MIFA (Memphis Inter-Faith Association) Christmas Store for many years—donating new toys for needy families.

But if you’re looking for a specific charity to support locally or nationally or internationally, there are plenty to choose from. Here are just a few I’ve found.

Top 5 Christmas Charity Projects: Click the link to read more about them.

More ideas are described here at All Things Christmas.

If you’d like to share a link to one you are supporting, please leave it in a comment here on my Facebook thread. Thanks for reading!

Friends, Fiction and Fashion on Friday: Day Trip to Oxford

Deb Susu Jon 1978Today is my friend, Deb’s birthday. I offered to take her to lunch, but she asked if I would ride with her to Oxford (Mississippi) to visit her mother. It was a gorgeous, unusually cool and breezy day, so I was thrilled to be dropped off at the square to shop while she visited with her mom for a while. Later I met them at the University Club for lunch, where two more of her mom’s friends joined us. Delicious food and stimulating conversation with these lovely ladies.

So, instead of writing about “Faith on Friday” (although today is the Feast of the Procession of the Cross and the first day of the Dormition fast which leads up to the Feast of the Dormition of Mary, the Mother of God) I’m just sharing a few happy moments involving other “F” words:

FRIENDS: Deb and I have been friends for 45 years. We lived right across the hall from each other in Brown dorm at Ole Miss during our freshman year (1969-1970.) The above photo was taken in 1978 (that’s my oldest son, Jonathan, in my arms). I treasure our friendship which has endured all these years.

Snow QueenFICTION: I picked up an autographed copy of Michael Cunninghams “darkly luminous” new novel, The Snow Queen, at Square Books today. Since Cunningham’s novel, The Hours, is a favorite (and was inspirational while I was drafting Cherry Bomb) I’m curious about his latest book. I’ll keep you posted.

(And no, I didn’t buy the book to match my blouse! But what a fun coincidence.) I enjoyed some time reading up on the balcony at Square Books, where memories of the original Yoknapatawpha Writers Group sessions filled me with happiness.

 

sweater coat

FASHION: Shopping at Neilson’s Department Store on the square is another favorite activity… and I always find something artsy and different and lovely. Today I found this amazing sweater-coat by Damee NYC. A perfect weight for Southern falls and winters, and it’s machine washable!

So thankful for this lovely day and all the ways it fed my soul.

Cyber Monday: FREE SHIPPING for The Shoe Burnin’: Stories of Southern Soul

rem_403x403_cyber_mondaySo, we’ve survived Black Friday, enjoyed Small Business Saturday, and hopefully did some almsgiving on #givingSunday. Now it’s time for Cyber Monday! There are lots of great deals out there, but I’m just going to tell you about one of them:

FREE SHIPPING on The Shoe Burnin’: Stories of Southern Soul! Coupon Code: cybermonday

This terrific collection of stories and music (a CD comes with the beautiful hardback anthology) will entertain you, feed your soul, move you to tears at times and laughter at other times, and introduce you to some amazing writers and musicians. (And yes, I’ve got an essay in there: “Eat, Drink, Repeat: One Woman’s Three-Day Search for Everything.”)

All you do is CLICK HERE to order and the SHIPPING IS FREE. (Did I already say that?) Coupon Code: cybermonday

Want to know more about the book first?

Here’s The Shoe Burnin’s Facebook Page. (We’ve got over 1,000 LIKES. Please LIKE us today!)

You can READ about how The Shoe Burnin’ came about, MEET some of the authors, and WATCH some great videos here, at the River’s Edge Media site.

Deep South Magazine has a nice piece about the book’s premiere at the Louisiana Book Festival HERE.

The poet, Scott Owens, gives a nice review here: “21 Writers, A Pile of Shoes, and A fire.”
About 16 minutes into this You Tube video about the Louisiana Book Festival there are some great interviews with some of the writers and artists featured in The Shoe Burnin’.

So, what are you waiting for? Check that Christmas list and see how many folks would love a copy of The Shoe Burnin’ and CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE BOOK AND CD WITH FREE SHIPPING… today only! Coupon Code: cybermonday

Oh, and here’s a FREEBIE: Lari White singing my favorite song from the CD: “Eden Before the Fall.”

Check out all the other great stuff on the CD:

SB CD back

Happy clicking, folks!

Faith on (Black) Friday: Shop INDIES for the Holidays!

1385146940017-BlackFridayThis post really isn’t about faith. I’m just not very inspired today. And it’s not even about Black Friday. I have never been shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. It’s not that I’m against it. I’m happy for those businesses that are able to “get in the black” and have a successful year. But I’m just not into crowds. Unless we’re listening to some awesome concert at a terrific music venue.

1459184_704759949541931_2014763917_nBut I am enjoying a “sneak peek” at Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, with a few online deals I’ve found today. Whether you get out in person (tomorrow) or just shop online (tomorrow or Monday), here are a few links you might enjoy:
The Memphis Melange Etsy Team and Memphis Style Market (which includes work by my friend, Emma Connolly)

Indie for the Holidays (which includes a link to my friend, Corey Mesler’s, new book)

12 Days of Shopping In and Around Memphis (which includes some great little shops like Burke’s Books in Cooper Young)

Flavor Mavens (owned by my friend, Jennifer Stanek)

Frantic Chocolates (owned by my friend, Fran Tylavsky)

Jonni Webb Pottery (owned by my friend, Jonni Webb)

The Nautilus Publishing Company (owned by my friend, Neil White) which has some great DEALS!

 
And of course, any and all indie book stores!

rem_403x403_cyber_mondayI’ll admit I’m not waiting until Monday to do most of my cyber shopping, but I’ll be checking out a few sites to see what deals they’re offering. And I’ll be plugging this one for sure:

River’s Edge Media is offering FREE SHIPPING on copies of The Shoe Burnin’: Stories of Southern Soul on Cyber Monday! This book and CD (awesome music and recorded stories) makes a fabulous Christmas gift, so you might want to get several. Use coupon code cybermonday.

That’s it for today. Have a great weekend everyone—whether or not you’re shopping!

 

Mental Health Monday: Shopping is Good For You!

soft-surrondings-catalogDon’t judge me. Having survived a life-threatening wreck on July 7, sometimes I ALMOST feel guilty when I ask my husband to drive me to the nail salon for a manicure and pedicure. Or when I spend hours shopping online and perusing catalogues for clothes. After all—aren’t those superficial activities in the light of what I suffered in the wreck and subsequent surgeries and my ongoing recovery? Shouldn’t I just be constantly reflecting on God’s goodness, and spending any leftover mental or emotional energy writing thank you notes? And yet, I shop.

One “excuse” I have is that several items of my favorite (and newest) clothing were destroyed in the car wreck, so I actually needed a few replacements. (We aren’t sure what happened, but a bunch of my clothes, which were hanging behind the driver’s seat in my car, had holes in them—like some sort of acid/fluid got on them.) And while I was still in a cast, there were only certain kinds of clothing that I could get on and off without difficulty. But now that I’m approaching a near-full recovery and I’m getting out to literary, social and church events more often, I’ve wanted some new fall clothes.

54981Looking for evidence-based research to back up my shopping activities here, I found this article in Women’s Health (okay, it’s five years old, but I think the information is timeless) on the mental health benefits of shopping. I wasn’t surprised at all by the reasoning set forth in the article:

Studies show that shopping isn’t just about materialism . . . .  it’s actually good for your mental and physical health. It releases mood-lifting endorphins, boosts your immune system, keeps your brain nimble, and even fulfills basic social needs.

Okay, maybe online shopping doesn’t fulfill basic social needs. Except when you share your purchases on Facebook and a bunch of friends comment… the cyber version of girlfriends shopping together. (And for someone who hasn’t been able to go shopping, physically, in three months, this is as good as it gets!) Two items I’m considering right now are this “Odette Top” and this “Provence Pullover,” both from Soft Surroundings. I’ve already ordered this “Bernadette Tunic and Skirt” from Acacia, which should arrive in a week or two, just in time for those cooler fall days that are on the way.

So, what about the mental health benefits of those manicures and pedicures? The Health & Style Institute (don’t you love their name?) says:

Both the physical and mental health benefits of getting a manicure and pedicure are incredible.  Your feet and hands will both look and feel great, your stress will go down, and your circulation will increase.

WomenManicuresAnd there are social benefits to be gained at the nail salon, too… visiting with the nail techs and other customers while catching up on the latest movies on their big screen TVs and sipping wine or mimosas. After weeks of spending most of my days in a hospital bed in my office, outings to the nail spa are like heaven!

 

What’s next? This week I have appointments with the neurosurgeon and orthopedic surgeon. I hope to get good news that I can (1) quit wearing the neck brace, and (2) start weight-bearing on the foot. When I’m free of the neck brace, and given permission to turn my head from side to side and up and down, I hope to schedule an appointment with my hair stylist, another mental health boost! And I know I’ll still be wearing the black boot for a while, but once it’s off, my next venture will be looking for replacements for my favorite cowboy boots, which were also destroyed in the wreck. I wish I could remember the name/brand, because they were so comfortable and light-weight. I got them at Macy’s about 2 years ago. Hmmm… looks like more shopping is in my future. Here’s to better mental health!

ACuttinggirl5089_xlarge

Mental Health Monday: The Art of the Catalog (Formality, Sex and Adornment)

my new yoga capris!

my new yoga capris from lululemon!

Six weeks after my accident, I’m beginning to get out a bit, which is a wonderful mental health blessing. So far most of my “outings” have been to the hospital or various doctor’s offices, but my sweet hubby usually “rewards” me after those visits by taking me somewhere for lunch or dinner. But last Thursday, as we were waiting for our friends to arrive at Ruth’s Chris for an early dinner, I noticed LuLuLemon, the yoga clothing store next door. Ooooooh! Wheel me in there? I asked my husband.

I was like a kid in a candy store! So many yummuy fabrics and colors and designs. And yes, I made a purchase—some super comfy Capri-length yoga pants that fit nicely over my cast. I have worn them every day since I got them!

Several pair of fairly new skinny jeans and tunic tops were destroyed in the car wreck on July 7. I decided not to replace the skinny jeans, hoping that by the time I’m out of a cast I might actually be needing a smaller size. But I went ahead and replaced 3 of the tunic tops—all from JJill. Sadly, two other tops were designer numbers I had picked up at Seaside, Florida, last spring. I’m also grieving the loss of my favorite cowboy boots, and will have to see how well my foot heals before I’ll know whether or not I can wear cowboy boots in the future.

 

So, what does all this have to do with Mental Health Monday? EVERYTHING… for someone who loves to shop but is confined to a wheelchair (and can’t drive) for three months! So, what’s a girl do? Well, even before the accident, I was a huge fan of catalogs. I probably get 6-8 of them in the mail every week. I don’t mind if they sell my name to other venders, because that’s how I discover new sources. Like The J. Peterman Company, who has probably the coolest, most artistic catalog I’ve ever seen. Check out these items in particular, and pay attention to the literary descriptions, which alone are enough to sell me on the items:

WSK3989-BLACKMadeline’s Skirt (No. 3989)—Tea Room in Sint-Amandstraat

 ‘Prose should feel effortless,’ she says with a smile.

I think I get it.

Watching her. Her long hair, the lavender bow, hint of a smile on her red lips. Admiring her skirt, the elegant yet three button front, shapely yet streamlined—it’s just the right combination of formality, sex and adornment.

I think I feel it.

She knows I’m watching her move across the polished hardwood floors, thumbing the pages. (Rumor has it she cut 20,000 words from last year’s Man Booker winner.)

WDR3998_TEALMy Moment Dress (No. 3998)—Your Moment

This is what you should wear to usher it in.

Myrna Loy did.

1924.

Crowded Hollywood pool party at mogul’s house off Sunset.

WAC43281917 Bohemian Earrings (No. 4238)—Ethereal

Emotionally vintage.

Authentic vintage materials from around the world. Hand-painted filigree with rhinestones.

WBL3659-REDWHTCelestial Blouse and Skirt—Your Night in Fiji

Dancing with him on the beach.

Away from the man-made lights. Away from the Shangri-La. Away from the rugby team’s Cibi war dance….

Ocean waves fill your ears. He has you close.

The night sky is alive with celestial lights….

He will say, ‘I never knew you could dance… like that.’

If I was looking for freelance work, I’d love to write for the J. Peterman Company.

Emotionally vintage.

Just the right combination of formality, sex and adornment.

Six more weeks until I can drive myself to a bricks and mortar store, walk inside and try on new clothes. But until then, I’m happy here with my catalogs. Or at least the artsy ones. Which are your favorites?

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