Author: Melissa

Planning a Family Trip to France: Booking Rooms

Planning a Family Trip to France: Booking Rooms

Whew, am I breathing a sigh of relief– all of our rooms for our trip to France are booked! As I mentioned in my post about tickets, to me booking rooms is hands-down the most stressful part of planning. I’m not entirely sure why; I […]

Creole Creamery: My New Orleans

Creole Creamery: My New Orleans

Want to eat some amazing ice cream next time you’re in New Orleans? (Is that a stupid question or what?) We are embarrassed — nay, regretful — that it’s taken us this long to actually go visit Creole Creamery. Michael’s cousins have been raving on […]

St James Cheese Company: My New Orleans

St James Cheese Company: My New Orleans

I am slowly starting to work my way down my list of places to eat in New Orleans; St James Cheese Company has been on that list for a while! It is devoted to, well, all things cheese, but also excels at turning that cheese into delicious lunchtime fare. Their food menu is not vast, but certainly more than ample. The shop is light and airy, with one wall lined with evSt. James Cheese Company Warehouse Districtery imaginable condiment to complement the cheeses for sale in the cooler — multiple sorts of mustard, jellies, preserves, even honeys. I ordered at the counter, and opted for the classic ham and brie on baguette with a side salad. Now, don’t get me wrong, the sandwich was on point; delectable, slightly melty brie, served on an excellent baguette, not to mention the quality ham. But it was the salad, of all things, that I really fell in love with. For starters, it is a rare salad that I don’t have to either cut up to eat it in something approaching a polite manner, or else try to maneuver large pieces of lettuce into my mouth (which never ends well). Not so with this salad. All the greens were bite sized, and each bite was perfectly dressed with a mustard dressing that had the exact amount of zing needed (that is, not too much). I think the salad is indicative of the attention to detail they must put into their fSt. James Cheese Company baguetteood. The baguette was a hit, but next time I’m definitely trying one of their salads! The St James Cheese Company also has $10 cheese platters for happy hour (3-6), which would make an excellent snack when touring the city.

The shop is kid-friendly (at least the one on Tchoupitoulas is); there are both booster seats as well as high chairs available, plus a kids’ cheese sandwich on the menu.  They also have a second location in Uptown.

Their gourmet food selection is great fun to browse, but I will definitely be back for a scrumptious lunch again soon!

Driving in France: Overview and Tips

Driving in France: Overview and Tips

A year-and-a-half ago, my husband and I took a two week road trip in France. (Spoiler alert: we LOVED it!! Breakdown of our itinerary coming in a future post. . .) But I have to admit, I was initially a little nervous about driving in […]

Handling Money in France: How-to and Tips

Handling Money in France: How-to and Tips

Ah, money. We gotta have it while traveling, but it can be stressful to figure out the best way to handle it while in a foreign country (like, say, France. Did someone say France? Mais oui! Did someone say money? Here’s how I budget for […]

New Orleans’ Audubon Zoo/Two-Fer

New Orleans’ Audubon Zoo/Two-Fer

As I mentioned earlier, we’ve had the most amazing spring weather this year. It’s been unusually glorious, and I’ve not taken it for granted. We took advantage of yesterday’s perfect weather to do a full day at the Audubon Zoo. I was especially motivated to go since our membership is expiring soon and I won’t renew it until next year. (This is no reflection on how much we love the Audubon Zoo! I just usually alternate memberships between it and our Children’s Museum, so as to maximize our membership value. Expect a post on the Children’s Museum soon…) The Audubon Zoo is one of our favorite spots to visit around New Orleans; it’s lush and lovely, and the exhibits have really been expanding and upgrading lately. We’ve visited it many times and never tire of it.

There is obviously plenty of wildlife to see– elephants, lions (new!), bats, reptiles, large cats, rhinos, etc. There’s an African section, an Asian one, a Mayan jungle one, and a primate section. It is probably unique in its swamp exhibit, which showcases all things swamp and deep Louisiana (many gators!). You’ll definitely feel the swamp vibe walking through it. The kids (and this mama!) appreciate the number of hands-on sort of play scattered throughout; there are a couple of different playgrounds, a petting zoo, a carousel, an archeological “dig”, and Monkey Hill.



Monkey Hill is a unique little section of the zoo that locals know to bring your bathing suit for. In addition to being something of a New Orleans institution that generations of New Orwillians have enjoyed (unless you want to be mocked, please please don’t actually use that term, but please do watch this and laugh). There is some debate as to whether or not it’s the highest point in the area. There is no debate on how much fun it is to roll down. Yes, it’s really that flat down here.

Monkey Hill Audubon Zoo

Besides the hill and water, there’s a little suspension bridge that leads to a slide. Be prepared to park for a while (benches provided!) and let the kids roam up, down, and around the hill.

In my opinion the Audubon Zoo is just pretty to walk around, never mind the animals; in addition to lovely landscaping, it has several old structures and fountains that give it a lot of character. I hope you get to visit it and love it, too.

If all this talk of this much activity is making you tired, French Truck Coffee has a location on Dryades St. not too far from the Audubon Zoo…just saying…I personally suggest swinging by on your way in. It’s delicious.

French Truck Coffee

Tips: Audubon Zoo is most crowded in the morning, so if you can time an afternoon visit do so. Wear sunblock! Even on cool days the sun can get you. Parking is free and plentiful.

Food: There are numerous cafes and food vendors around the zoo (you can peruse them here), but picnic lunches are very welcomed. You can tote any sort of cooler/picnic basket in, and there are numerous benches and tables available throughout the zoo, not to mention lawns shaded by oaks! We always pack a lunch, and sometimes we’ll get Roman Candy as a treat for dessert (family tradition…my husband grew up eating it every trip to the zoo!). The stand only accept cash, so bring a few dollars to indulge.

Audubon zoo swamp
Our lunch view this visit

Strollers: The entire zoo is very accessible via stroller. If you forgot yours, there are strollers available for rental near the front ($11 single/$13 double).

Ticket info: It goes without saying that if you’re visiting more than once, membership is best option. If you’re not local and membership doesn’t make sense, there’s a combo ticket you can read about here that looks to be a good value! I personally would do the Aquarium/Zoo combo, and not bother with the Insectarium. The Insectarium was interesting enough, but on the small side. I think the Zoo and Aquarium are much better! Especially if you’re just in town for a while. Buy tickets online ahead of time to save both time and a little money. Present the tickets on your phone.

Kids in the Kitchen: Celebrating Strawberry Season

Kids in the Kitchen: Celebrating Strawberry Season

My apologies in advance to those of you who still have cold weather, because here in Louisiana it’s fully spring. Glorious, amazing spring, one of the prettiest down here that I can remember. Best of all, spring brings strawberries. Louisiana prides itself on growing them […]

Mapping Skills for Elementary Students (K-3)

Mapping Skills for Elementary Students (K-3)

A couple of weeks ago my children and I set out with our co-op to do a mapping skills exercise. (This sounds super official, but translated that’s me and two friends and all our kids learning directions and beginning mapping!) We have a range of […]

Resurrection Eggs/Easter Advent Eggs

Resurrection Eggs/Easter Advent Eggs

Today we’re continuing our ramp-up to Easter with what people usually call “Resurrection Eggs” (personally I like the term Advent Eggs)– another one of my goals for this year! “Advent” usually refers to the Christmas season, specifically the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, but I think the term fits well for the idea of counting down to and anticipating Easter. The Christian church at large has celebrated Holy Week (the Sunday before Easter, Palm Sunday, to Easter Day itself) for centuries, but in my church tradition it wasn’t particularly observed. There was usually some mention of Palm Sunday, and then obviously Easter, but in between the two was essentially nothing. I wanted to change that for my children, and do something to build anticipation and weave the Gospel accounts into the week leading up to Easter. I’ve seen the idea of Advent Eggs/Resurrection Eggs around more and more, and love it! It’s been on my list to do for um, probably two years (gulp), but I finally got it together this year! We do eight eggs, one for each day Sunday to Sunday.

Wooden hollow eggs

It’s often done with plastic Easter eggs, but since I knew this would be a long-term tradition for us, I bought eight hollow wooden ones (plus I love the feel of real wood!). This is the Etsy shop where I found my hollow wooden eggs (they also have adorable toys!!). When I ordered, the specific egg size I wanted (7 cm) was no longer listed, but the shop did a special order for me no problem. I highly recommend the shop and its products (plus the box came covered in super cool Russian stamps!). We may paint the eggs eventually, but not this year…

Our Easter Advent eggs are a mash-up of  this website and this list here. The first website is an excellent Holy Week line-up of verses, crafts, and songs for each day. (I don’t happen to be Catholic, but it’s a great resource for even us renegade Protestants. ;), and the second one is full of ideas of what to fill the eggs with and what verses to put with it. It seemed pretty obvious what to use for Palm Sunday, and then Thursday to Resurrection Sunday (given the timeline given in the Gospels), but I may tweak what we do for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The Gospels have a lot going on and it may take some trial and error to figure out what to highlight those days! Here’s what I filled the eggs with this year, and what verses we will be reading:

Resurrection Eggs contents

Egg 1, Palm Sunday: a palm leaf, read Luke 19:28-40 (also Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11) [the picture has a real leaf, but I’ll be finding a silk one soon]

Egg 2, Monday: A piece of soap and a bit of towel (washing the disciples’ feet), read John 13:1-20.

(You could also do cleansing the temple here, found in Luke 19:45-27 and Matthew 21:12-16. But I felt that feet-washing lays the groundwork for Jesus laying down his life better. After I already decided that I thought I’d check the book I’ll be using [see below] to see if it would be confusing with the story in the book, and lo and behold! They have feet washing on the second day too! So I think it was Providential. 😉

Egg 3, Tuesday: rolled up “scroll” (teaching in the temple), read Luke 19:45-48.

(My enthusiasm got the best of me and I trimmed 4 fancy toothpicks I had on hand down to size so that each end became a “handle”, and then glued them into each end of a strip of paper. I was pleased with the result, but I suspect that a plain toothpick with the sharp ends trimmed off then superglued in the paper would work just as well.)

Resurrection eggs thorns nails and scroll

Egg 4, Wednesday: 30 dimes for the 30 pieces of silver, read Matthew 26:14-15 (also found in Mark 14:10-11).

Egg 5, Thursday: cracker (for unleavened bread), read Matthew 14: 17-29.

Egg 6, Friday: nails and something thorny (I found a thorny vine in my very well-manicured[cough] yard, and a twig from a rose bush), read Mark 15:16-39 (also Luke 23:18-49) .

Egg 7, Saturday: a strip of linen and a stone, read Luke 24:50-56.

Egg 8, Easter Sunday: the egg is empty to symbolize the empty tomb, read Luke 24:1-12 (also Mark 16:1-8).

As I mentioned in my post on classic Easter books for children, this year we will be reading Easter Love Letters from God every day Easter week, along with opening our Resurrection eggs. The items in the eggs and the stories in the book don’t exactly correlate, but I don’t think it will be an issue. We’ll see. I printed up the verse references listed above and taped it in the front of my book so everything would all be in one place (I need all the help I can get to be consistent).

Advent/Resurrection Egg contents and corresponding Bible references

If you’d like to print this list of verses too, here is the printable: Advent Egg Verses and Items.

If you’re looking for an alternative to Resurrection eggs, but with the same concept, Just a Girl and Her Blog did a lovely box version.

The verses above are all relatively short; as my children get older we’ll read longer passages to expand the context, but for little ones, just the bigger events are a good start.

I feel like this is the first year Easter won’t sneak up on me and whiz past before I can get my act together enough to properly prepare for it! I’m excited for our new traditions, and will be sharing some other little ones soon (including food)! What traditions do you have?

Classic Easter Books for Children

Classic Easter Books for Children

One of my goals for this year was to make my children’s Easter collection of books more robust, or, erm, exist… We have a pretty good collection of Christmas books going that I set out for them to read during the Christmas season. But I […]