Birthday Holiday Part 1. New Orleans – Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Hello My Cakers Bakers and Beauties!

This is the first post about the (birthday holiday) I took with my Husband to the United States in May 2014-  we went to 4 different cities/towns in 3 different States, so since I’m prone to writing long posts anyway I decided to split the trip into 3 posts and try to keep each post relatively short and sweet. *Someone* forgot to bring the memory card for our proper camera and decided not to buy one while we were away so all of my photos/videos were taken on my Samsung Galaxy S4. I would apologise for the picture quality but I think that my little phone did really well!

I know that the title of this post is not grammatically correct, “proper French”, it is Cajun French phrase which has been literally translated from the English  “Let the Good Times Roll!”

In this case “roll” is quite literal…

If you haven’t figured it out already our first stop was the Crescent City  aka New Orleans!

We arrived in the dead of night and the first thing that hit us was the heat and humidity, I wasn’t complaining though!

For the duration of this holiday my Husband (who shall be also referred to as “H”or “Hubby”) happened to be in a wheelchair, a manual collapsible wheelchair that he was not able to operate alone which meant that I was pushing him in the wheelchair for the majority of the time.

We stayed in the Crowne Plaza Astor Hotel on Canal St which is on the edge of the famous French Quarter,  the hotel is actually on the corner of Canal/Bourbon street so we had an interesting view in the evenings from the balcony in the hotel.

View from hotel balcony

View from hotel balcony

On our first full day in N’awlins we discovered that the French Quarter is not really wheelchair accessible, the paving is atrocious! The Paving slabs are not at an even height and in some places the paving slabs were not present! Instead there were large holes full of broken glass and murky liquid from the previous night’s activities, it was very, very difficult for us to navigate the streets of the French Quarter and we often had to cross the street because of hazards and obstacles on our side of the street, on Bourbon St particularly we had to cross back and forth about 12 times, because of this we did not experience any of the night life the FQ has to offer, the pavements and roads get very crowded with rowdy and often roaring drunk tipsy tourists at night so we decided that it wasn’t worth the hassle.

Despite only venturing out during the day we had an amazing time in New Orleans and we will definitely be going back.

Just in case you are new to my blog I have to mention that I  love food, not just baked goods but practically everything (except cheese)

Without further ado I present to you a small selection of the best food we ate in NOLA (New Orleans, LouisianA) and some of the places we visited during our 3 day stop over.

We had beignets and chocolate milk/ Café au lait in Café du Monde on Decatur Street,

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I was enjoying my choccy milk until… I read the ingredients and discovered it had High Fructose Corn Syrup in it, I can’t get into why HFCS is so bad for you but Google it if you don’t believe me. HFCS is evil and I avoid it like the plague.

We listened to live Jazz in Jackson Square.

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We visited St Louis Cathedral  the oldest (active) Cathedral in North America,

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We went on the Riverside Walk beside the Mississippi River

 (This was the most accessible part of the FQ the paving was smooth and even)

The Mighty Mississippi

The Mighty Mississippi

Frozen Chocolate dipped Bananas from a street vendor. Yummy!

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We ate a Seafood Platter at Deanie’s Seafood and had cocktails including NOLA’s most famous cocktail, the Hurricane.

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I wanted it grilled, hubby wanted it fried – guess who won? At least I got my veggies even though they were not even on the menu & I had to make a special order!

My "Ice Cream Martini" to the left Hubby's "Hurricane" to the right.

My “Ice Cream Martini” to the left Hubby’s “Hurricane” to the right.

Crawfish Boil! @ The Original French Market Restaurant and Bar,  the ground floor is accessible but the toilets are on 3rd floor !!!(another Hurricane – this one was better I suspect the Deanies one had HFCS & E numbers in it!)

We did try to shop in the actual French Market but I was disappointed in the stalls. On the 3 separate occasions we visited the market not one vendor was selling locally made/crafted souvenirs, everything was made in China or other Asian countries,  I have nothing against China and when I visit there I will be happy to purchase souvenirs made there.

So tasty, boiled in a seasoned and peppery hot base.

So tasty, boiled in a seasoned and peppery hot base.

We also visited the beautiful and historic Louis Armstong Park,

the park was also wheelchair accessible with lots of smooth flat surfaces but there was also a lot of gravel.

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PicMonkey Collage

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We also took the streetcar out of the FQ to the Garden District, the streetcar wasn’t really accessible at all, but H could walk a little bit so the streetcar operators helped me fold the wheelchair and stow it behind the driver’s seat.

The streetcars were quite  slow, obviously I know they are old and I think they are mainly for tourists (kind of like the Emirates cable car in London) because they don’t seem an efficient mode of public transport at all, especially as there are buses everywhere that travel much faster.

If I thought the paving in FQ was bad, Magazine street in the Garden District was even worse, there are a lot of old trees in the GD and the trees roots cause the paving slabs to break up and become uneven and quite frankly dangerous I saw many able-bodied people tripping up on this “crazy paving”  even the dropped curbs were useless as they had been raised by tree roots, I mainly ended up pushing the wheelchair in the road. Yes we could have taken Taxis everywhere but I love walking, pushing the wheelchair was great exercise for me and we were able to spend more money on FOOD!

Lunch at the Rum House

PicMonkey Collage (2)

To be honest our trip to the GD was a bit of a waste of time, yes the lunch was nice but none of the shops/restaurants were immediately accessible, they all had narrow doors and you had to step up or down into the establishments, very few of the places had portable ramps but I had to leave my husband outside in the baking hot sun and go inside the shop to ask if they had a ramp and it felt like such a long process just for a bit of window shopping, if a sales assistant took the hassle to drag the ramp out I felt really bad for not buying anything. Of the few places that had portable ramps we always had to use the side/back/service entrance which really made me feel like we were 2nd class citizens.

I did find a lovely shop called Fleurty Girl which was full of locally made garments and items designed by locals,                                     so I bought his/hers New Orleans t-shirts mine has a design that was  a doodle from a napkin and H’s shirt is a voodoo skull which includes  a lot of  NOLA imagery including the po’boy (sandwich), streetcar, voodoo symbols, fleur de lis, crawfish, alligators, oysters, and many more.

Thanks to hubby for modelling, you can't see my design properly when I'm wearing it.

Thanks to hubby for modelling, you can’t see my design properly when I’m wearing it.

All in all we really enjoyed our time in NOLA despite most of the city not being wheelchair friendly. This was not the first time I’ve visited “The South”  but NOLA has it’s own unique charm and style, for the most part the natives of the city were friendly and helpful. We even met a retired guide called Dave who gave us a map and instructions on how to experience the best parts of the city cheaply/free, we didn’t get to do half the things Dave suggested but we still have that map and we will bring it with us next time.

In many ways New Orleans reminds me of the Caribbean, there is a laid back – easy going vibe, local music is ALWAYS playing when you’re out and about, the people and food are a delicious melting-pot of Cultures and Ethnicities and of course the hot and humid weather.

The Crescent City has much more for us to discover, there was so much local food we didn’t get to try like muffalettas, po’boys, gumbo, jambalaya and anything with gator in it. There are also many, many things we didn’t experience, horse and carriage tours, steamboat rides, cemetery tours and so on.

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I’d also like to learn more about Voodoo (‘Voudou’ is the preferred spelling of some) and Spiritual side of the city but I understand that many aspects of Voodoo have been appropriated by store keepers looking to make a quick buck from gullible tourists looking for love potions and fake “Voodoo Dolls”. Voodoo is a religion and  should be respected in the same way that people respect Christianity, Islam and other “Major” religions. Having Jamaican ancestry I know a bit about Obeah and Myal other Religions that have some similarities to Voodoo and Hoodoo beliefs and practices. Contrary to popular belief Voodoo isn’t a cult, black magic or worship of the Christian devil.

People who practice Voodoo are not witchdoctors, sorcerers or occultists. Voodoo isn’t a practice intended to hurt or control others.

Unfortunately Racism clouds people’s view of Voodoo, it is rooted in slavery and intricately connected to political and social evolution. Voodoo was first practised in America and the Caribbean by slaves of African descent, whose culture was both feared and ridiculed. Slaves were not considered fully human. Their religion was dismissed as superstition, their priests were denigrated as witchdoctors, their Gods and Spirits were denounced as evil. As usual people fear what they do not understand.

Mosaic on the floor of a corner shop

Mosaic on the floor of a corner shop

Anyway as per usual I’ve gone off on a tangent and this post has ended up being way too long, please forgive my digression…

 Until next time don’t forget to Laissez le bon temps rouler!

Our next stop is Las Vegas, I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed putting it together, it has taken a week to get this post up!

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Thanks for reading, Luv Sian x

Sources: The New Orleans Voodoo Handbook by Kenaz Filan (btw a very interesting read)

             What is Voodoo? Understanding a Misunderstood Religion – Article by Saumya Arya Haas on HuffingtonPost.com

 

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The Cake and Bake Show 2013

Hello My Cakers, Bakers and Beauties!

I attended the Cake & Bake Show on Friday 13th September 2013.

I didn’t really know what to expect as I didn’t attend the show last year and I intentionally didn’t do much research before going.

I’d like to say thanks to Celina F, she sent me a link for discount tickets to the C&BS while I was on holiday in Dom Rep and thanks to modern technology I was able to buy my tickets for £7 each, I bought one ticket to the actual show and a VIP ticket to the Cake Kitchen with Shelina Permalloo, for those of you who don’t know who Shelina is, she is the winner of 2012’s Masterchef (UK – the original and best version).

Shelina Winning Masterchef, she was the first female champion in seven years! (image from dailymail.com)

My Mum and I were rooting for Shelina since we first saw her on the show and we were so glad she won. From the beginning Shelina came across as very passionate about food, beautiful inside and out but humble too.  We were also really glad to see that as a “woman of colour” Shelina was always representing her Mauritian background and bringing those flavours and dishes into her amazing food.

I also have a bit of a girl crush on Shelina, I’m not ashamed to admit that I think she is incredibly sexy, she is curvy, pretty and can really cook! what’s not to fancy?!

The Cake and Bake show was held at Earls Court 1 in London. I went on my own so I could spend the entire day there perusing all the stalls and chatting to anyone and every one without my companion getting bored and making me feel like I have to rush.

The C&BS was huge! I dont think I got to visit every stall even though I was there from 11-5!  There was a lot of people selling baking related items which is to be expected really but I didn’t feel pressured in any way there were enough free samples and demos to keep me happy. I wish that there were more toilets because each time I had to good there was a long queue. In addition more savoury food on sale would have been nice, there were a couple of gourmet pie stalls within the show and the sandwich type places that are permanently at Earls Court but nowhere I could get a proper balanced meal, at least not on the Friday.

Now for the pictures!

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These guys were making instant ice cream using liquid nitrogen!

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Beautiful Meringues

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The Queen and Her corgi were entirely edible!

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Entirely Edible Woodland Scene

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All of the “fabric” on this bodice is edible lace – except the cris crossed ribbon

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At the end of the day I was so happy to sit down at the cake kitchen and watch Shelina’s demonstration she made a pork stir fry dish and delicious white chocolate and cardamom cookies! I know they were delicious because the VIP  tickets holders were able to have a cookie each.

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Me, Shelina and yummy cookie!

That’s All Folks!

Sian

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Birthday Celebrations Part 2, Africa Comes to Spitalfields (photo heavy)

Hi Everyone!

On May 27th Spitalfields Market hosted an event called Africa at Spitalfields.

Here is the description from their website:

Come and join London’s biggest shopping experience inspired by Africa Join us on the last Bank Holiday Monday in May, as we transform Spitalfields Traders Market to bring you Africa at Spitalfields, a new shopping experience, celebrating the vibrant African culture and showcasing the talents from Africa and the Diaspora in the UK. The day is to include an array of stalls of African Music, Film, Fashion, Interiors, Street Food, Art, crafts and Literature. You’ll be greeted by the aroma of sweet smelling African street food, traditional African dancers, the distinctive sounds of Djembe drummers and you can try braiding and face painting for the kids or big kids. More than a conventional market, Africa at Spitalfields is an interactive shopping experience about bringing together the community young, old, families, students & adults, and is a perfect environment for stall holders and those that that have a general interest to connect with one another. Feed your curiosity, your eyes and your taste buds…Get Involved, Get Inspired. Free entry for all and everyone is welcome!

Twitter: @Aatspitalfields

http://www.facebook.com/africaatspitalfields

info@africaatspitalfields.co.uk

This was right up my street, almost literally as Spitalfields is just a mere stroll across London Bridge for me. The weather was lovely again so hubby and I grabbed our water, camera and trendy Hessian shopping bags and we were off…

We entered the market on the “wrong” side but the sound of the Djembe drums called us to the right section of the market.

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There were many children also invited from the audience to play the drums but I’m not keen on posting photos of other people’s children on the internet.

I spoke to every single stall holder at the market, but in this case pictures are much better than words. To make it easy for you to tell when I have moved onto another stall I will separate the groups of photos with a line like this:

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ImageHubby bought me little birthday presents from each stall, where I fancied something, I got these from J.M Prempeh:

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I bought a lovely doll for my Nephew Widget, we do not believe in gender stereotypes in my family , my sister specifically wanted a female doll for her son to represent his female relatives and to teach him that he must look after this special doll, and treat it with respect because he should treat all women with respect and look out for his Mum, Aunty & Grandma etc.

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I bought some Black Soap from this stall,

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I bought the blue top (on the right)

The Stall holder was very patient with me, there she is on the far left.

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Lunch Break!

We had lunch at Las Iguanas, BOGOF cocktails, 5 Tapas dishes and sweet Potato Fries.

While we were waiting for the food to come DH took photos of me pulling faces,

sometimes you have to just let go and have fun!

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I bought the last “cultural hamper” from this lady,  it contains 4 Plantains, 1 mature coconut and 1 Sharon fruit all for £5.00 plus I can reuse the packaging, bargain!

I think cultural hampers are a fantastic idea and I wish I’d thought of it!

Only one problem, I have no idea what to do with a mature coconut!

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From the other side of the market we bought this, I’m actually going to use the board as a spoon rest, I think that Olive wood is beautiful and if the board holds up against staining I’m going to buy more Olive wood products especially kitchen items.

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It was a really great day and I hope they have this event again!

Thanks for looking everyone!

Luv Sian

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