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1/4/13 - Happy New Year and Good Bye Louisiana

We wish all our friends and family a Very Happy New Year!

Sarah's First Beignet
What a week we've had!   On Tuesday (12/31), we stopped at Cafe Du Monde in Mandeville for beignets and then it was on to New Orleans with Sue, Tom, Megan, and Sarah.   It was Tom and Sarah's first visit to the Crescent City so we took them to the French Market for a little shopping and then walked over to the levee (it was dry) and took a few pictures.   We then took a few pictures at St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson square before walking through the French Quarter to Bourbon Street for a few more pictures.   We ended our tour with lunch at the Praline Connection where Sarah was so happy to finally have some authentic Jambalaya.    

Gator meat, anyone?

Tom, Megan, Sarah on the levee

I wonder if it costs more or less with a ghost?

Lunch at the Praline Connection
Jambalaya - seriously good!
After we went back to the rig and got cleaned up it was off to the Winchell's to celebrate New Year's Eve.    Our Illinois/Wisconsin nieces had so much fun with our Lousiana nieces (and nephew) .   We had game night with Apples to Apples, Scattergories, Sequence, Ping-Pong, and some Wii dance games.    A good time was had by all!   Everyone made it to midnight and the adults celebrated with a champagne toast, the kids with carbonated grape juice.   
Louisiana Dance-Off
Sequence Time
Happy New Year from Mandeville, Lousiana!!
They all made it to Midnight.
Judy's 2nd  birthday
New Year's Day is also my sister, Judy's, birthday so at midnight we made our traditional phone call to wish her a happy birthday - luckily she was still up, you know how early old people go to bed.   Happy 50th Birthday Judy!!

On Wednesday (1/1/14), we were all up and ready for action by 9:30.  Since the weather was decent we took a walk around the park.   It's not a huge park so we were back in about a half hour.   

Since Becky invited us back to their house for a jambalaya dinner (Sarah is soooooo happy)  Megan and I decided to do some baking so we could bring over dessert.    She made one-bowl brownies and I made a pineapple upside down cake - Yum!!

Marty was at Becky's putting in the chimney cap and Tom was napping on the couch.   Sarah thought it would be real funny to put shaving cream on Tom's hand and then tickle his nose - unfortunately for her, he wasn't really sleeping - just resting.   Also unfortunately for her, she couldn't get close enough to him without giggling so she just kept backing away.   When she finally did it, he grabbed her but luckily for her she didn't quite get the concept and only had a tiny dab of shaving cream on her finger.   It was pretty funny, it doesn't take much to amuse the Merkes family.   

Notice his hand waiting for the shaving cream - Sarah is
about to find out how hard it is to play tricks on her uncle.

We were back at Becky's by 5:00 and had a delicious jambalaya dinner and then the adults played a few rounds of sequence.   The kids were again busy with the Wii and everyone was happy.   We left there around 8:00 since our Illinois/Wisconsin family were leaving the next day and needed a good night's sleep.   As we were leaving, Becky gave Sarah the leftover jambalaya to take home with her (after being reminded by little miss Sarah who is not quite as shy as she pretends to be).    My family really enjoyed the time they spent with the Winchell's (especially Sarah!).   

On their way back to Illinois

On Thursday (1/2/13) it was time to say goodbye to our visitors.   It was so incredible having them here and we had a lot of fun during their way too short visit.   It was very hard to say goodbye but we will be seeing Sue and Sarah again in March when we meet them in Mesa for Cubs Spring Training.   

I set my "find friends" app so that I could follow them on their way home.  They left us at 11:00 A.M. on Thursday and arrived home 14 1/2 hours later at 1:30 A.M. on Friday.   

This very strange photo was me taking a photo of Sarah
thru the window of the van.  The face in the camera
is Sarah and the body and hands and hair are me - weird!

Marty and I spent the rest of the day hanging around the park and rig.   We caught up on computer stuff, took the rig to the dump station and basically just took it easy.   

Friday morning (1/3/14) Marty dropped me off at Becky's so I could work with Hope on some Christmas/New Year's scrapbooking (and sneak in a couple loads of laundry - thanks Becky!).   Hope is very proficient with the Silhouette die-cutting machine and was going to show me how to hook my Cricut Expressions up to my laptop and do some pretty cool things.   Unfortunately, there was a problem downloading something with the Cricut and we weren't able to work with it.   At least now I have an idea of what I can do with it and once the software glitch is figured out I should be able to do some interesting things with it.   Actually, comparing her 3 pound Silhouette to my much heavier Cricut Expressions I'm thinking I should just try to sell the whole kit and kaboodle and buy a Silhouette.   Anybody want to buy a Cricut with 11 cartridges included?

Marty picked me up at 5:00 and we picked Becky up from work and headed over to Lola's for dinner.
Lola's is located in a old railroad depot and the kitchen is located in an attached railroad car.   It was quite nice, the menu had a lot of seafood items so Marty was quite happy.  Becky and Marty split an appetizer of flash fried oysters and then split a lake trout dinner.     I had a hamburger, which was really good with a bacon marmalade glaze and white truffle fries.    They had a very nice selection of desserts, so nice that we couldn't decide and asked if we could have a sampler plate.

So Many Choices!
Dark Chocolate Brownie, Dump Cake, and Hummingbird Cake

Saturday (1/4/14) - our last day in Louisiana :(.     We arranged to meet Becky and the kids for dinner after she got off work at 4:00.   We had a very nice farewell dinner with Becky, Mary Margaret, Hope, and Meredith at Chili's.   After dinner it was time for dessert and a short ride to try a local specialty - the "snowball".   I wish could have copies of the choices, there were so many it was hard to pick.  A stuffed snowball is ice-cream on the bottom and then the snowball on top.   I tried the dreamsicle with sweetened condensed milk drizzled on top (Becky's recommendation and it was delicious).   Marty tried the stuffed snowball with Pralines and Cream ice-cream and vanilla and amaretto snowball. 

Snowballs in Louisiana in January
are way better than snowballs in
Chicago in January!

We have had such an amazing time in Mandeville,  it will be  hard to leave.    We had so much fun with the Winchell's and are glad we got to spend our first holiday season away from Chicago with them.  We did not get a chance to ride our bikes on the Rails-to-Trails trail in Covington so we will definitely have to return.  

We will be leaving Fairview State Park Sunday morning and are hoping to make it to Galveston State Park in Texas Sunday afternoon.    It's 350 miles away so we would like to be on the road by 9:30.