Learn a Book! – 20[Seven Teen Series]

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“Don’t let the Muggles get you down.”

One of these years I’m going to run out of gimmicks.

This is not that year.

Over the past two years (2015 and 2016, go check ’em out) I’ve found that my annual reading challenges have gotten pretty intensive. In 2017 I’d like to make it a bit more relaxing and, get ready for it…, give myself some time to do other things. Like finally watch Westworld and Stranger Things and actually do all that stuff that I said I would on my halfway bucket list (I know, I know, I get it, leave your judgment elsewhere, I’ve hit my quota for the month).

As we all (hopefully) know, I’m a HUGE advocate of Young Adult Fiction. This year I’ve decided to go back to the beginning of my torpent love affair – all the way back to my not-so-long-lost teenage years – and revisit some of the series that made me into the reader I am today.

By the end of 2017 I’m hoping to have finished at least seven popular “teen” series (it’s all relative). I’m sure a few other bits and bobs will distract me along the way so I’ve included a section accordingly. In order to get a decent mix of the old and the new, I’m soliciting fan favorites from back in your own younger years. I don’t ask for recommendations very often, so take advantage while you can.


The Main Course – Seven Teen Series

1. Harry Potter – JK Rowling

First up, the OG fan favorite.

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone [304 pgs]
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets [341 pgs]
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban [435 pgs]
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire [734 pgs]
  5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix [870 pgs]
  6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince [652 pgs]
  7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows [759 pgs]

2. Blue is for Nightmares – Laurie Faria Stolarz

These books have stayed on my mind for years and years. I was terrified of them, I loved them, and I can’t wait to get back to them.

  1. Blue is for Nightmares [283 pgs]
  2. White is for Magic [301 pgs]
  3. Silver is for Secrets
  4. Red is for Remembrance

3. A Series of Unfortunate Events – Lemony Snicket

In all honesty, I don’t remember ever finishing this series. Maybe I got through the first 6 before returning to the latest Junie B Jones.

  1. The Bad Beginning [162 pgs]
  2. The Reptile Room [190 pgs]
  3. The Wide Window
  4. The Miserable Mill
  5. The Austere Academy
  6. The Ersatz Elevator
  7. The Vile Village
  8. The Hostile Hospital
  9. The Carnivorous Carnival
  10. The Slippery Slope
  11. The Grim Grotto
  12. The Penultimate Peril
  13. The End

4. House of Night – P.C. Cast

One my my very first Vampire, or should I say “Vampyre,” obsessions.

  1. Marked
  2. Betrayed
  3. Chosen
  4. Untamed
  5. Hunted
  6. Tempted
  7. Burned
  8. Awakened
  9. Destined
  10. Hidden
  11. Revealed
  12. Redeemed

5. Heartland – Lauren Brooke

6. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – Ann Brashares

7. The Spiderwick Chronicles – Tony DiTerlizzi & Holly Black

  1. The Field Guide [107 pgs]
  2. The Seeing Stone [108 pgs]
  3. Lucinda’s Secret [108 pgs]
  4. The Ironwood Tree [108 pgs]
  5. The Wrath of Mulgarath [136 pgs]

Additionally

Not teen series, but you can’t expect me to rein in my wandering eyes all year long can you? No, I thought not. This is where I’ll list whatever else it is I’m reading, because I’m psychotic about tracking page counts.

  1. Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders [343 pgs]
  2. Eligible – Curtis Sittenfeld  [488 pgs]
  3. Heartless – Marissa Meyer [453 pgs]
  4. Carry On – Rainbow Rowell [521 pgs]
  5. The Hidden Life of Trees – Peter Wohlleben [250 pgs]
  6. A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles [462 pgs]
  7. Bear – Marian Engel [122 pgs]
  8. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter – Seth Grahame-Smith [336 pgs]
  9. We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson [146 pgs]
  10. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley [197 pgs]
  11. The Dollhouse Murders – Betty Ren Wright [149 pgs]
  12. The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole [109 pgs]
  13. Red Moon – Benjamin Percy [530 pgs]
  14. The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt [771 pgs]
  15. An Irish Country Doctor – Patrick Taylor [337 pgs]
  16. Talking as Fast as I Can – Lauren Graham [223 pgs]
  17. The Wild Robot – Peter Brown [273 pgs]

As always, feel free to follow me on Goodreads. I still don’t write reviews, but I’m getting better about remembering to rank the stars. So… enjoy that.

Be forewarned that some of these planned series may change with the seasons… I fall in and out of reading phases on a terrifyingly consistent basis. So check back every once in a while to see what’s happened – like, for instance, all of a sudden I’ve just decided to read all 62 original Goosebumps books…

24 Lessons Learned To Get To 24

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New year, new… just about nothing else.

The planets have been a-turning and once again, I’m faced with the internal dilemma of tacking another year onto my young age. As my mother so lovingly likes to remind me, every day is another one closer to 30.

Last year, I rather liked thinking up 23 thoughts on turning 23. This year, though, I thought to myself “Cass, what in the hell are you going to write for the big 2-4?” At the time, I was driving down a familiar street on a cold and rainy day, home in ‘lil Rhodey for the holidays, and it started to become apparent that it’s really a small miracle I’ve even made it to the age of 24 at all.

So there you have it, folks. 24 lessons learned that got me to the age of 24. This list is in no way exhaustive, I can assure you of that. But some of my favorites. Enjoy.


1. Laughter will not always be your best medicine. Sometimes it’ll be tears. Sometimes a little quiet contemplation. Sometimes a spontaneous trip across the Atlantic. Sometimes actual medicine, you idiot.

2. The best skill you can ever learn is how to be comfortable alone. By yourself. On your own. Don’t wait for other people to help you live your life, choose your own adventure book and then sit in a coffee shop all by yourself for a few hours and read it.  That’s how the proverb goes, right?

3. Slow down; in all things, slow down. You do not need to sigh loudly in line at the post office because I’m here to tell you that you sound like a jerk when you do. What is the actual rush? The world will keep turning. Patience.

4. Blueberries grow on tiny little tree bushes. I know. And peanuts? “Peanuts grow in the GROUND and are therefore GROUND-nuts, and after you take them out of the ground you grind them up and you have ground ground-nuts, which is a much more accurate name than peanut butter, you just don’t understand English.”

5. Always settle practical questions with sentiments which have nothing to do with them. Make your anger never furious; your love never fierce, but instead deep and tender.

6. People will change and you will have to adapt to that. Which maybe might mean taking separate paths. I speak from experience, though, when I say that those that are meant to join up again some day, will.

7. Impactful moments come in packages large and small. A good song on the radio when you’re having a tough day. An unexpected friendship that is on track to last a lifetime. When something wants to hit you, let it, and appreciate it for whatever it is.

8. Listen to your body and let it help you get to know yourself. For general medical problems, realize what your systems are trying to tell you and remember those signs for next time. But also we all have those moments where something ever so insignificant happens and it somehow manages to throw off your entire day, giving you that awful back-of-your-mind-anxiety or pit-of-the-stomach-discomfort. Call it out. If I say something I regret to a loved one or some kind of uncomfortable interaction happens with a friend or I do something embarrassing at work, I force myself to acknowledge it. Tell yourself it’s going to be okay. The day is gonna go on, life is gonna keep being lived, and it’s gonna work itself out. 9 times out of 10 confronting it helps me move on from those bad feelings a lot faster than if I had avoided and repressed to begin with. Know how to help yourself get over it.

9. You got the music in you, don’t let go. You got the music in you, one dance left, this world is gonna pull through. Don’t give up, you got a reason to live. Can’t forget, we only get what we give.

10. Family does not always mean blood. Not to me, anyways. There are so many people on so many corners of this beautifully expansive world that I consider to be my family, and I very much want them all to know that.

11. Listen with your heart, you will understand. And also left side, strong side.

12. Cry if you want to cry and don’t be embarrassed by that very natural emotional response. For joy or anger or sadness or because it’s Tuesday. A whole childhood of people scolding me for being “too sensitive” taught me that what the heck is wrong with crying? What the heck do I need to be from Mars for? (.2% of my readers will get that reference…)

13. There’re some things I know for certain. Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Plant lavender for luck. And fall in love whenever you can.

14. Get competitive with yourself, not with others. Getting competitive with others makes you obnoxious, but getting competitive with yourself makes you push your limits, hopefully in all the right ways.

15. When someone makes you laugh, tell them. It helps the both of you know that you want to keep them around. Nothing makes me happier than having a good laugh.

16. Make your time always well spent, never wasted. If there are things you don’t want to do, don’t. You’re the only one determining how you live this life and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

17. Potatoes have 48 chromosomes. That’s 2 more than humans. You can draw whatever conclusions you want from that one, I’m just providing the facts…

18. When you make mistakes, own them. Lying or avoiding it because you’re afraid of the consequences is not a good idea.

19. Never doubt yourself on your ability to adventure. Book the flight, google the bus timetables and write them on little slips of paper with emergency addresses on the backs. Get out there into whatever piece of the world it is that you want to see because I’m a firm believer that it won’t always be around to be seen like this.

20. When you feel love for something, anything, let it run unboundedly.

21. Have courage and be kind. Always, always, always be kind. And always have the courage to do so. There’s enough bad stuff going on out there, we don’t need to get it from each other too.

22. Trees. Are. So. Rad. Did you know the oldest tree in the world is over 4,000 years old??? And here I am stressed about being 24. Respect the trees.

23. Imagination is the most beautiful gift to ever be given to humankind. I feel so supremely sad for people who don’t use theirs. I entreat you, please find a way.

24. I still find that for all things in life, I can’t ask why. And I’m always going to be a better person for that.


As always, I’m thankful to see another glorious year on this here earth. And I’m thankful that you and I get to see it together, dear reader.

Something makes me think that 24 will help us find quite a few new Tales to tell.

Real Moments: On Remembrance

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“Oh you’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road and I’ll be in Scotland ‘afore ye, but me and my true love will never meet again on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.”


First and foremost, this is for you. Not for them. I don’t need  to tell you that I miss you, but I do need to say that I’m sorry. I’m sorry that some days I try not to remember you.

There are so many things that could be said about the so many days that have passed since you did. What I will say is that I remember the sound of your laugh, the feel of your calluses as we held hands in prayer. How you loved Bob Marley, which still makes me laugh out loud. McDonald’s Apple Pies will always be our treat, Budweiser our beer. Rod’s “Forever Young” the song we never got the chance to dance to at my wedding. Your nee-nee alien hands. How you let me practice parallel parking between your friends’ actual cars. The feel of the bristle on your cheek when I kissed you goodnight, every night. The sound of the radio you hummed along with in the old black and white tiled bathroom every morning before school. The sight of you waiting there, at the end of the train platform, every time I came home from college.

The point is, just because I say I try not to remember you, doesn’t mean that I don’t. And I know you know that. I know you know that it’s just because it’s so hard, and it hurts so much. But I’m sorry for it anyway.

Now, on to a few words for them. But I promise that the rest of this lifetime is for you, Papa.


In the beginning, there was sorrow. Every single day.

Then came repression of the unhealthiest emotional nature. Focus on school, Cass. Finish school. You’ll have time to grieve later. Later came and school was finished. No, not now. It’s back to home and back to work, definitely not now. Work harder. Read books, devour books. Put yourself utterly and completely into those books and pretend you are anywhere but here. Wait for Ireland, you’ll be alone to grieve in Ireland. Get to Ireland and what nonsense! Enjoy Ireland! Keep your spirits up because you’re mostly on your lonesome. Look for ways to grieve but feel unfulfilled in that, feel uncomfortable at the idea of anyone else catching on. Do not grieve in Ireland, wait until anywhere else. Keep reading.

Ireland passes, you’ve gotta go home now. Time to prepare for Scotland, oh how you’re dreading Scotland. His place, his home, your first time ever returning without him. Please don’t send me to Scotland, why are they sending you to Scotland? Why has everyone insisted that this is a good idea? That you, of all people, are the choice? Are you not the most unfair of choices? Whatever you do, absolutely do not grieve in Scotland. More books, bring more books. Lose yourself again. You’re not there, you’re not here, you’re in between the pages. Do not mourn yet. Soon. Later. There will be a time.

Return from Scotland, now get through graduation. You only did all of this for him anyways but he’s not here so don’t look up into those stands, no matter what you do – do not look into those stands. Sit by yourself. Stare at your hands. Make the walk, do not look up. Mourn later, after the ceremony and the pictures. Later comes back again and still not the time. Pack and get ready for the changing of lifestyles, the moving away. Start your new job, focus on that. Get down there and wait until everyone leaves. When you’re left on your own in this new place, with these new people, then you can give yourself over to grieving. Months pass in this new place, with these new people, and still nothing. Little bits and pieces here and there but no big confrontation. No realization. No hit.

The Day comes back. It’s one year later. Force yourself, you have to force yourself. You’ve become an absolute professional over the past twelve months, one of the elite class of people able to utterly repress that anything like this has ever happened to them. Not today, no one deserves that today. Not you, not him. Remember it all, every last detail.


And I miss the way he was whistling, walking down the street. And every time I do something I think of what he would say. “Well, it’s cold today, wear a scarf.” But lately, I’ve been forgetting little things. He’s sort of fading and I’m starting to forget him. And it’s like… like losing him again. […] And sometimes, not always but sometimes, I can actually see him. It’s as if a cloud moves away and there he is – I could almost touch him. But then the real world rushes in and he vanishes again.
 Before Midnight (2013)

A man was sitting next to me on a plane recently. The stewardess came around to ask if anyone wanted anything to drink and he, being polite, reached out to tap me on the arm. I looked down at his hand, the wrinkled leathery skin that stretched across his knuckles, and I felt as if all the oxygen had suddenly rushed to evacuate my body. That hand, it was his hand, it looked just like his hand. What I wouldn’t give to see that hand again. I still have a tough time looking at most old men that pass through my life on a daily basis. Their mannerisms, their baseball hats, their hands, the way they walk. They all remind me so much of what I had.

The past year has held so many lessons in remembrance for me. The biggest was probably my extreme fortune at encountering a family very similar to my own, in a distant emerald land, who had gone through their own loss of a beloved patriarch. I listened to their stories and their laughter, even offered up a few of my own every now and then. I thanked my stars for them every night, hardly realizing at the time that they were the first to arrive with the needle and thread to stitch me back together again.

Most of what I learned from them was that there is a way to talk about it. I still can’t have anyone bring it up to me, tell me what a great guy he was or how much they miss him. It has to be me, I have to tell the story or make the comment. I want so desperately to be like that family I met, to be the champion of all remembrance on behalf of our beloved Terry.

I spent a year repressing the tears and the thoughts and the memories. Something would happen, a catalyst if you will. I’d remember something or sometime and my chest would contract. The tears would start and I’d hold my breath, bite my tongue, blink up at the brightest light in the room, try desperately to calm myself. I got very good at that, the whole repression thing. I won’t say I didn’t encounter a few massive breaks along the way, because I did, but for the most part I was strictly composed. It got to the point where some nights I’d plan rare allowances, as if remembrance and mourning could be scheduled. I’d lay outside in the backyard of my childhood home or down the street next to the ocean, looking up at the sky and pouring a beer out into the waves surely like the kind of crazy person everyone already thought that I was. I’d pull out my favorite pictures and wish with every breath I had to rewind back to the moments they showed me. If only for one more hug, one more laugh, one more word.

I keep waiting, I’m still waiting, for it to just hit me. Last year I spoke about living within my little removal from reality. A year later and I feel like not much has changed. One of these days the gravity of it all will really register and I’ll just crumple to whatever ground I happen to be nearest to and I’ll sob and I’ll scream and I’ll clutch at the mud thinking that somehow that will fix things. Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen, when you really love someone? When you still feel like a child? You cry loud enough and eventually that’s the pain, that’s the release, it’s all over with. Is my inability to do that what it means to grow up, to learn that this is a part of life?

It’s okay to know that your heart will never heal. Time will not fix all wounds. It may make them bearable, but it may also fool you. There is a balance but I have not found it yet. I try, but there is guilt no matter which side I lean towards. My life is mine to live, and yet I feel I am forgetting him. All my time can be spent in remembrance, and yet too much of that will lead me to nothing else. My solution so far is this: if you begin to remember, remember. The good and the oh so terribly bad. When you have thoughts, think them. When the tears start, don’t stop them. Let your heart ache, let your chest feel like it’s caving. Sob as hard as you can and if you can’t then don’t grow frustrated at yourself because that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with a little repression. It’s when a little becomes a lot that you’ll get into trouble. Some day, you’ll let yourself remember. Until then take your time, take absolutely all of it.

As Alastair McDonald once said, “there is an old Celtic belief that when a man dies in a foreign land, his spirit returns via the low road,” a special road which the fairies take to carry him back to his home. To the man who raised me into the fantastical, life loving little sprite of a child that I am – I know that we’ll be meeting for many more adventures together on all sorts of roads. And until that day when we get to the last one, I will do all that I can to remember you.

Voyages: Into Twilight [@ForksWA]

About three things I was absolutely positive. And “I love Forks” was every single one of them.

I lied to you all, this is the real reason I went out west to Seattle country – because Seattle is very close to the small town of Forks, Washington. Otherwise known as the town in which The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer is based. Even if you’re not into the series, there are some beautiful photos of the Olympicly Peninsular landscape for you to scroll through. However, I absolutely adore the series so… I’m kinda hoping that some of you do too.

On Sunday, my best friend and I rented a car, woke up early, and took a little Twilight-themed day trip out away from the Emerald City. May or may not have returned as members of a different species.


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After sufficiently caffeinating in the earlier hours of the morning, we hit the road to the tune of “This Is Halloween” followed by the Ghostbusters theme song.

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I literally could not resist howling out the window in hopes that all nearby werewolves would come run alongside the car under cover of the massively impressive thick trees. Our entire trip was spent winding in and out and around the Olympic National Park. Did I mention massively impressive trees? One more time for good measure? They were massively impressive.

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As we drew closer to the town limits we switched the playlist over from general Halloween to the soundtracks from the Twilight Saga movies. I just about lost my mind when we spotted the first road sign.

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The iconic sign! Missing the 3,120 population count, but I’m assuming that’s because it’s grown ever so slightly since 2008.

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The Forks Chamber of Commerce/Welcome Center was our first stop, where we picked up a town map and some other fun little bits and pieces. The woman who helped us out was supremely nice and I’ve decided that if ever there was a dream job, it would be me sitting on the porch of the Forks Chamber of Commerce in a rocking chair, talking about this Saga with anyone and everyone who will listen to me. While cross-stitching “Team Jasper” pillows.

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Foreground truck: Bella’s from the movie. Background truck: Bella’s from the books.

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The Swan Residence, which happens to be up for sale (I don’t blame them even in the slightest). Seriously considering putting in a bid, who wants to join?

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Very familiar with this sign. We circled the perimeter in search of some picnic tables to perch ourselves on but they were sadly absent from the property.

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A local inn had offered up their digs as the official Cullen House. A giant beautiful tree was out front and right next door you could see the Forks Police Station with plenty of cruisers a la Charlie’s.

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Rad rad rad rad rad! This was a super cool spot. About a 25 minute drive from Forks – La Push actually is an existing Reservation and actually does have quite a few beaches (which a lot of people were taking advantage of). Pretty sure those cliffs off in the distance were the ones Bella would have jumped off of, as they’re land accessible. Facts, that’s what you’re here for people.

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A best friend, spotted roaming in the wild! This is my road trip, life companion Robin!! We spent a lot of time looking for cool pebbles on this beach. And yes, I did bring one home with me.

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As Robin so truthfully put, the driftwood collected at the edge of First Beach looked eerily similar to the Elephant Graveyard in The Lion King. Very fun to climb over and play on, though.

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Queen of Fashion, you can call me. I channeled my inner Eric all day long and Robin had to ask me more than once to stop saying “La Push, baby… it’s La Push.” Didn’t stop, though. And this snapchat was what came of it.

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Very pretty ocean and rocks and everything, all the things.

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Can’t stop won’t stop with my window pictures. Won’t stop. This was a lake somewhere in the middle of the Olympic Peninsula that we had the extreme fortune of getting to drive along the perimeter of on our way to Port Angeles. Don’t be lazy, Cassie. Look up the lake for your loyal readers… Lake Crescent, of course it was Lake Crescent.

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I wish we got to spend more time in Port Angeles, but Seattle is quite the drive away and as it was we were pushing the later hours for our return journey when we got there. Our final stop on our Tour de Twilight was to indulge in the same Italian restaurant Edward and Bella went to on their first date!

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I’m not even a fan of ravioli but I couldn’t come all the way here and skip ordering it! If you don’t understand why, how did you even make it this far through this post? The mushrooms were delicious and Robin, the kind wonderful best friend soul that she is, even ordered a second Coke so she could slide it across the table to me. Again, true fans only, please. After filling up on delicious carbs, we hit the road for our return to Seattle.


And that just about wraps up my first ever West Coast adventure weekend! Going to Forks was an honest to goodness dream come true. Going with a best friend who completely understands when you burst into tears at lunch over how every character in The Twilight Saga was fated together is even better.

As always, thanks for reading! Oh, and…

Be safe.

Voyages: The Emerald City [@SeattleWA]

Baby’s first trip out West! That’s right. Until this year, the furthest west I had ever been in my life was probably Pennsylvania. But my best friend (the one who went to New Orleans with me) recently moved out to Seattle to start her real life grown-up… life. And naturally I had to get out there to visit.

Most of my trip was in the spirit of spending time with her, so we got out and saw quite a bit of the city but this is in no way meant to be a “Weekender’s Guide to Seattle.” It’s just the things we’ve been talking about wanting to see and some pictures of what came from seeing them together.

For those of you interested in going soon, I will say that we experienced some delicious eats in the Capitol Hill area. Notably a fall-themed lunch at Americana, a tex-mex brunch at Rooster’s, and the fineries of Italian wine and 1,000 degree-cooked pizza at Via Tribunali. So, go crazy. And bring me back some Mexi-migas. There, you’ve got your “guide” element – are you happy???

Scroll on to see a Seattle Saturday at its finest.


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First stop, the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room. I had my sights set on visiting this place since its opening was announced almost 2 whole years ago. The Reserve features rare, small-batch roasted coffees which you can find in most stores but this particular spot is really the mothership of the whole operation.

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So chic, so sophisticated, so absolutely packed on a Saturday morning. The roastery featured a few different places to try out the elite coffee offerings but we went for the main stage, if you will, right smack in the middle. The whole aesthetic of the place is everything that I aspire to be.

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THE MOMENT I HAD ESPECIALLY BEEN WAITING FOR. Starbucks recently announced the launch of their Nitro Cold Brew and allow me to tell you the story of when I first heard about it. I was sitting on my couch, reading through Twitter, and happened upon the aforementioned announcement. “Nitro?” I thought to myself. “As in Nitrogen? As in brewed with Nitrogen? As in BREWED LIKE GUINNESS???” Yes, Cassie from the past. Yes, exactly like that. When I discovered it was being released in select cities, not including the one I just moved to, my heart was aching and breaking all over the place. But we made it, folks. We made it and we loved every single ice cold delicious sip of it.

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A stroll down Pike Street brought us to our next stop: the iconic Pike Place Market.

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Also crazily busy, as to be expected. A sensory overload happened between the flowers and the food and the people and the lights and and and. It broke me a little bit, it truly did.

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Never have I seen such delicious looking fruits and veggies. Also, we got to sample some dark chocolate spaghetti which is a very interesting concept. The locals must have this place down to a science, cause I can tell you that if I lived there it would definitely be a frequent shopping center.

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Am I forthcoming enough with my personal interests? After the Reserve experience, we still weren’t done with our Starbucks fix. We went to visit the one and only original location at 1912 Pike Place. Kind of, sort of, the original location… the first “store” was actually at 2000 Western Avenue but that was back in the early 1970s when they functioned as more of a roastery than a brewery so you could only really buy whole coffee beans and maybe get a sample or two to drink.

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I love a good Siren! We waited in line for a bit but it was worth it to pick up some commemorative mugs with the original branding and the best frappuccino I’ve ever had.

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After Pike Place, we hopped on the monorail out to see the Space Needle! Iconic! We admired from the ground as we knew we’d need quite a bit of time inside of our next stop: the EMP Museum.

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The entire EMP building is super cool and futuristic and architecturally amazing. There are a ton of amazing pop-culture exhibits that currently include pieces from genres like Fantasy, Horror, and SciFi and Seattle music icons like Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix.

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The Lure of Horror Film exhibit had a whole wall of archetypes (I would call them that but not sure if that’s the legitimate name for it). Each little board featured explanations and examples. Take a wild guess what my favorite one was…

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And our final stop. The one that we spent the majority of our time going through. The one that brought us here in the first place. The piece de resistance. The Cassie Tears-a-palooza. The Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds exhibit.

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The exhibit featured props and costumes and set designs from all facets of the Star Trek lifecycle. My favorite piece was this concept art for the USS Enterprise. The OG ship design. I’m getting chills just looking at this again.

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Words cannot describe the impact that Leonard Nimoy and his portrayal of Spock has made on me and my life. I thought pretty much everything was going to make me cry in this exhibit, but it was the Vulcans that hit me the hardest. It was the perfect ending to a beautiful day spent seeing this magical city.


I hope you enjoyed this little snippet of my first ever West Coasterly voyage! I’ve got a little something else coming up next week, but until then join me in daydreaming about the next time I’ll get to go back over to play in The Emerald City. There was so much left unseen but I’m confident it won’t stay that way for long.

Live long and prosper.

Voyages: Hickory & Blowing Rock [@NorthCarolina]

Last weekend I had a hankering to get away from the city. My usual preference would be to go to the ocean but that trip is more of a commitment down here so the second best choice was to get up into the mountains.

Are you ready for the tale of another hysterical attempt at my navigating myself sans GPS? Good, because I’ve shown up to tell it. Like the journey up to Kancamagus, I wanted to try my hand at navigating this one with only a general idea of where I was going – a reliance on road signs, if you will. The excitement of that only lasted about an hour until I decided to take a quick peak at my Google Maps location to make sure I was on the right track. Yeah, sure, the road looked right, but the direction looked oh so wrong. For a second I had myself a bit of a panic over the idea of spending the day in South Carolina instead of the Appalachians, but much like my destination, that blew over once I figured out my phone was showing me the map flipped upside-down.

Deep breath, hearty laugh, and away I went.


Hickory, NC

First stop. The town was absolutely Saturday morning silent when I arrived. It took a few drives around the block to orient myself, but once I found a parking space I hopped out of the car on a mission for good coffee. Don’t ask me how the “city” of Hickory made it onto my list of North Carolina locals in the first place, it just did. And the only real research I did on it was for coffee shops so here we are.

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Taste Full Beans is clearly the spot in Hickory. A hugely expansive menu greeted me from the back wall and the baked goods arranged along the counter drew me closer, but I had my eyes on the prize: the two wonderfully friendly young women who I knew were my gateway to the good stuff. They laughed as I confided that the menu overwhelmed me and all I wanted was the largest cup of coffee they were legally allowed to give me. A small selection of options lined the counter to the right and I went with a blend called “Dark Bliss.” If you know me at all, I shouldn’t have to explain why.

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As I settled in to a comfy chair-coffee table-couch setup, my tunnel vision now dissolved thanks to the achievement of my coffee getting goal, I took a look around. The best part of local cafes is the local culture support. Art available for purchase lined every wall, fliers were at the counter or on the tables with information about more goings-on, and one man was even chatting with the women behind the counter about some local theater productions. This is my favorite part of small towns! I desperately wished I could have become a more habitual customer, but I’ll settle for making Taste Full my passing through Hickory haunt.

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As I continued to drain my super large cup of coffee in record time, I noticed the magazines stacked on the coffee table in front of me. A dozen issues of Rolling Stone and a Wall Street Journal magazine with Meryl Streep on the cover. My visit was starting to feel eerily fated.

Another note on the general vibe of this place. The setup to my note is that playlists are huge to me, and that goes for pretty much any place I go. A restaurant, a cafe, a clothing store, anywhere. A good playlist gives me validation that I’m actually supposed to be there, that I made a good choice. So my note about Taste Full’s music comes in two parts: an excellent Fields of Gold cover and the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack. Game over.

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Caffeinated and satiated, I trekked back around the corner to my car to continue on my voyage North-Westerly. Right across the street from my parking spot was this attractively aesthetic Carolina Theater which I didn’t even notice upon arrival! Thankful I did before departure because look how freaking pretty!

Blowing Rock, NC

Next stop was Blowing Rock and again, do not ask me how I got it in my head to visit this place. I just did, okay?

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Since Blowing Rock is more situated on the edge of the mountains, the scenic route happens pretty quickly. The highway starts to wind you upwards and suddenly the roads are narrowing (partly from construction, partly from actual nature). Then all of a sudden you round a corner and a huge sign pops up pointing you in the direction of the town-namesake: THE Blowing Rock.

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The legend of this location is 80% of what drew me to it in the first place. I’m a sucker for romantic history, especially when it includes a little bit of fantastic occurrences. The other 20%? The temperature cool down. It was mid-70s when I arrived at high noon. A wonderfully pleasant experience compared to the high-90s I left behind.

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The Blowing Rock itself was quite literally just a big slab of rock jutting out from the side of the mountain. I climbed up to the top pretty confidently but the wind made me immediately sit right the heck down for fear of getting pushed over the edge.

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It was indescribably cool to look out and imagine a young woman probably younger than myself sitting in the exact same place before the mountains and valleys below, spotting the love of her life wandering the wilderness. Too sappy? Okay, I’ll rugged it up a little bit. Imagine how good of a shot she must have been to make her arrow navigate the wind and get close enough to attract the attention of that guy.

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In all honesty, I could have sat up there in the breeze of the mountains all day. The fresh air felt so good and the scene before me so relaxing. Unfortunately it was time to get back on the road, but I made a vow to come back and visit the mountains again soon.

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Believe me when I say that I’ve got a list a mile long of places to go and things to do in North Carolina, but please do let me know any recommendations of yours! I’m gonna have to get to know this state at some point or another and I might as well start with the good stuff.

Real Moments: Tales Turns One!

It’s been one whole year since I started Tales of Casstastrophe and look how far we’ve come! If you’re here anticipating styled photos of giant golden balloon numbers or letters, please kindly close your eyes and imagine them for a moment so you’re not disappointed and then open your eyes and continue reading.

First and foremost, let’s review some of the adventures we’ve been on since we got to know each other last July:

Secondly, I’ve made a few updates around the site. Nothing too fancy but allow me to direct you to the new home page. This Is Me and Casstegories have also gotten a little sprucing. Have no fear, navigation is still largely the same and I want to make sure that my past posts remain unaffected so if you see anything looking funky please let me know!

And finally, thank you to everyone who has come along on this whirlwind of a year with me! I appreciate it more than you know that anyone out there, even one single person, cares to read my thoughts and prose. Writing is fun for me; it’s a hobby, it’s a habit, and it’s a love. While I’m thankful to have these musings recorded somewhere for myself in the future, I’m even more thankful to think that someone out there might actually get something from what I write. If that someone is you – please write back.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Here’s to many more Tales of Casstastrophe!

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Recent Reads – July 2016

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A week or so prior to moving, my mother instituted a ban on my buying any more books until after my arrival in North Carolina. I know. “You’ve got a ton you haven’t even read yet!” She said. “You don’t have any more room to pack them!”

She even went so far as to physically remove the very platinum edition of The Outsiders I have featured here from my own two hands while at the book store. I’ll admit, I told myself I wasn’t going to get anything that day but very quickly had several paperbacks catch my eye on the tables at the front (book lovers, you know what I’m talking about). I could feel the tension in my upper arms building as the muscles worked to restrain my fingers from snatching up everything around me. Cue my mother seeing the mania in my eyes and pushing me towards the coffee section of the store in hopes of my indulging in a different vice.

Jokes on her because within actual days of moving to North Carolina I dragged my parents on an expedition to the nearest Barnes & Noble and absolutely lost my damn mind. You would have thought I was a contestant on an episode of Supermarket Sweep, Bookstore Edition. Pretty sure I was the only person actually utilizing the plastic baskets pushed off to the corner of the entryway and let me tell you, utilize I did.

Here’s my haul.


GO SET A WATCHMAN | HARPER LEE

Confession #1: I only just recently read To Kill A Mockingbird. It was never required reading for me and so many people talked it up as a fantastic book (rightfully so, Harper Lee was a literary goddess of an inspiration) that I avoided it at all costs. I didn’t want other people’s opinions clouding my own judgment so I waited. Then, this book was released last year and I had to wait a little bit longer but finally got around to the start of Scout’s story back in January. Seeing this particular paperback, a little something whispered into my consciousness that it was finally time to start the end. I know it has received mixed reviews, but I really liked it.

THE LAST STAR | RICK YANCEY

Super refreshing to see a trilogy on the table again. These days I feel like a lot of young adult novels are going for gold in the length of series competition and I am not about it. The Lunar Chronicles? Fantastic, capped out at 4 and very well planned out. The ones where the authors willingly admit, having just published book 6, that they aren’t sure when they’ll get around to giving us closure? Unsubscribe. In my days of being a pre-teen youngin’, I could keep up with a 10+ book series! These days? Ha.

That being said, I’d have to admit that I was unimpressed with this final book. No spoilers, but also no closure.

SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE | KURT VONNEGUT

Confession #2: never read this either. Kurt Vonnegut seemed to be the first runner-up to Shakespeare in every other high school English class in the country as so many people, real and fictional, referenced it as required reading. I only had one teacher who assigned us some of Vonnegut’s short stories but this book just never pulled my attention. Probably because I was too busy begging the same teacher to incorporate more Victorian literature. Apparently other kids thought that was boring but potato, tomato. So for years I’ve skipped this and then happened to walk by a copy in my already manic state. I made a bet with my mom that if it was more than $10 I wouldn’t buy it… $7.99, guys. $7.99.

Another personal opinion? Not my cup of tea. In fact, I consider this a regret.

GHOST FLEET | P.W. SINGER & AUGUST COLE

I had some doubts about adding this book to my pile. I still have doubts. I get easily scared by things. I also consider myself to be a pretty paranoid person about the future and humanity and all of that from time to time so this book seemed as though it had the potential to instigate a massive panic crisis inside of me and yet it also seemed too interesting to skip over? That’s the exact train of thought that chugged on through my mind and I can promise you there are many more cars to come on that thing.

To summarize, this is a novel about the next world war. An opening note reads “the following was inspired by real-world trends and technologies. But, ultimately, it is a work of fiction, not prediction.” This is my current read.

RED QUEEN | VICTORIA AVEYARD

Okay, let’s talk about the hard cover epidemic. Actually, you know what? Let’s bump it up to a pandemic. Let’s talk about the hard cover pandemic. I love a good hard cover, I truly do, but the concept of waiting almost an entire year to get a book in paperback is distressing. A few months? Fine. 6 months, even? Okay, for some kind of popular/renowned bestseller, sure. ONE YEAR? ARE YOU KIDDING? Not to mention as a series is published, the earlier hard covers tend to disappear from the shelves. So if you arrive at the series a few volumes late, you’ve got to wait that much longer to get books that will stay in format with the set you have already started to accumulate! This is a cause I very much believe in, people. Shorten Paperback Releases, 2016.

Anyways, yeah, I wanted to read this series and didn’t want the hard covers so I waited until the first one was comfortably paper backed before I picked it up and here we are, very excited about it. I can already tell that this will be my next Young Adult Fantasy Series pick because the first book just really hooked me in. As in, once I started I didn’t stop until I was finished. An actual blood versus blood war where people have evolved to have super powers… basically. It gets more complex, read the summary elsewhere.

THE OUTSIDERS | S.E. HINTON

My mom was astounded when I told her that I hadn’t actually read this book. It’s an 80s movie classic! And I love the 80s! And I always read the books before seeing the movies! Well, I’d done neither for this particular story and the platinum edition absolutely threw itself at me from the New Releases shelf so I couldn’t say no.

This freaking book… honestly, top of my list for Must Read recommendations to people now. It hits you in all sorts of places. Literally as soon as I finished it I watched the movie (the complete novel version, not the original) because I could not get enough. The story that S.E. Hinton creates is so… I’m at a loss for words. It’s incredible. Read it immediately.

Stay gold… *bursts into tears*

THE ROOK | DANIEL O’MALLEY

My Uncle is my go-to recommender of sci-fi/fantasy books. He usually tells me to read things and I think “mhm, sounds like I’d like that, okay” and add it to my Goodreads list and then, oops, 10 months later it’s pushed down to the third page of the list. Riding his ‘The Kingkiller Chronicles’ recommendation wave, this time I made more of a conscious effort to pick up a copy. This is my up next read.

THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA | ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Darling, dearest Hemingway is my absolute favorite male author to exist in this here universe. His prose style is captivating and almost meditative, really. I was surprised when I saw that this particular work, one of his shortest, was a Pulitzer Prize winner but considering Hemingway won the Nobel Prize in Literature a year later, it makes sense that this would be the one to make a splash (anyone? anyone?).

Anyways, I went into it not anticipating to really relate to the story much and came out of it in my own sea of tears (I can’t stop). It’s a quick read, there’s no reason not to.


As always, please feel free to follow along with my recent reading escapades over on Goodreads and if you’re curious how I’m doing on my 20[16k] reading challenge then go check out my progress.

If you’ve read or will read any of these, let me know what you think!

6-in-6: My Halfway Bucket List

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Although I tend to opt for reflections over resolutions when we hit those end of December days, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a list of things that I want to accomplish throughout the year. My beginning half of 2016 was pretty action packed, but as I settle into a new home and a more routine life (at least for a little while) I wanted to make sure that I was still pushing myself to try new stuff.

So, I came up with this list of 6 things I want to do in the next 6 months.


1. Complete a basic coding class

Computer Science school drop-out doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but I’m sure Boys2Men as Teen Angel(s?) would have made it work. Please, someone out there appreciate the reference…

I started college as an Information Science major, if we’re going to get specific about it, and only lasted about half the semester before switching into Finance. My reasoning used to be that I didn’t have the brain for coding, but I’ve since decided that that excuse is entirely inaccurate. It’s more like I just couldn’t keep up with the speed of the classes. I wasn’t entirely new to this, I had done some beginner HTML and C++ in high school, but it was still hard to get a handle on! A year or two ago I tried teaching myself how to code again and it’s… still a struggle. So I’ve been looking at some open source courses and decided THIS is the year I’ll do it. I’ll get to the finish line and I’ll get there at my own pace.

2. Start drum lessons

Another story of prior failures in life: I’m not musically inclined. Not to say that I haven’t tried (violin, saxophone, guitar, chorus) but I never found something to stick with (aside from singing Paramore’s greatest hits in my shower) and I’ve wanted to get into drumming for a while now! It’s impossible for me to listen to music without moving, whether it be tapping a finger or bouncing a leg or flailing in circles screaming the lyrics to S Club Party with friends at a “silent” disco. Drumming felt good for me to get into so I’ll let you know how that goes.

3. Cross-stich Christmas

This is the year for a crafty Christmas. Believe it or not I started working on things for people in January and I’m determined to give my close friends and family personally cross-stiched gifts. I’m not ruining any surprises with this announcement because who knows exactly what they’ll get cross-stitched for them? That being said, funny suggestions are appreciated.

4. Visit 6 new states

I’ve moved to an entirely new region of the United States of America and as a newbie, I want to explore my surroundings a bit. It’s absolutely ludicrous to me that I’ve been bitten by this home country wanderlust bug all of a sudden when I spent the other 22 odd years of my life within a 6 hour driving distance of 10 other states and 1 other country and did I do much exploring of them? Honestly, not really. Now all of a sudden I’m like “woo! gonna take a weekend trip to Cincinnati!” The good side of this is that I’ll have so many voyages to share with you.

5. Go up in a small plane

In recent years I’ve developed a fear of flying, which is utterly insane given how much I’ve travelled in said recent years. My brain has started to rationalize that the fear is coming from the element of unknowingness. Since I don’t know the technicalities of how we’re flying and how the pilots are controlling the craft, it makes me that much more panicky. And I mean really panicky, like tears streaming down my face mid-flight panicky. How do I figure I’ll confront this fear? I’ve got it in my head to maybe get my pilots license. But baby steps! Let’s get me up in a smaller airplane first and see how that goes.

6. Make lasagna from scratch

Being one of my favorite foods, I reckon I should learn how to make it. When I was in Ireland I spent some time with an Italian couple who were amazing cooks and they shared a few secrets of the trade. Let me know if you want in on the taste test!

Voyages: The French Quarter [@NewOrleansLA]

A warning that this post is longer than my Voyage posts typically are but that’s because so much happened! And so many pictures were taken! And I want to share all of that with you! So let’s get through a quick preface before you get to the good stuff.

This was an adventure literally 5 years in the making. Since we met, my best friend Robin and I have been wanting to go down to New Orleans, Louisiana. Last weekend we finally made the jump and road tripped from my newfound home in North Carolina to spend a few days in the French Quarter. 10+ hours, each way. 700+ miles, each way. Too many mixed CDs to actually count, each way. And quite a lot of new experiences in between. Enjoy!


THURSDAY

We left as early as the two of us could conceivably manage on Thursday morning and landed down in New Orleans around 7pm, after a very comical scene about an hour out which featured Robin and I running from giant killer wasps at a gas station in Mississippi while also trying to check mystery tire pressure levels. Let’s just say it was an unpleasant experience and it culminated in us deciding to push on in hope that the tiny little dashboard light would cut us some slack. It did.

After checking in at the French Market Inn, which is a beautiful little inn right on the edge of the river side of the French Quarter (I’m assuming that you could have assumed that from the name but I wanted to be really thorough with you, dear reader), we hit the streets! Mostly tired but also a little hungry, we went for a walk around our immediate surroundings in search of sustenance and happened to catch some cool sights as the sun was going down.

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I have a real love for wrought iron and the gates lining Jackson Square a few blocks down from where we were staying happened to play right into that!

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Stay tuned for a lot of pictures of porches, another architectural soft spot of mine. This particular one seemed oh so beautiful in contrast to the massive law-oriented, courthouse-type building behind it.

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And another view of Jackson Square (that brass man hanging out on his brass horse is none other than Andrew Jackson himself, go figure) and the St. Louis Cathedral at sunset.

After many shuffle, stop, read the menu, shuffle on, repeat scenarios we finally settled on grabbing a quick bite at Pierre Maspero’s. Despite having grown up on an island, I’m not the biggest fan of seafood, so I was a little hesitant about food options down in New Orleans. However, I’ve also recently become more ambitious in trying new foods so I was motivated to really give the southern creole cuisine a shot. As long as french fries were also on the menu.

That being said, Robin and I ordered a Crescent City Sampler to split, comprised of Cajun Jambalaya, Crawfish Etouffée, and Chicken & Andouille Gumbo. We wanted to try all of these things throughout the weekend and now we could knock them all out in one go so it was perfect! I highly recommend this game plan if you’re like me and had never tried this kind of cuisine before because it was a huge help to figure out what I could actually handle without having to waste a whole entrée sized portion. For example the Etouffée was definitely not for me, but I couldn’t get enough of the Jambalaya. Also tried: fried green tomatoes (yum!) and sweet potato stout (wish it had been just normal potato stout but also, yum!).

FRIDAY

After using the night before to plan out all of the things we wanted to do, Friday became a pretty big day for us. As soon as we woke up and got ourselves dressed for the day, we set out in fear of thunderstorms and stopped for cheesy tourist ponchos before heading across the street to try another New Orleans famed dish: beignets! Pronounced “ben-yays,” not bayg-nets… you’re in the French Quarter, people! C’mon!

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The very touristy spot to try beignets, but obviously a must for first-timers like myself. I’m sure there are other cute cafes to enjoy the deliciously New Orleans fried dough treat, so let me know if you know of any!

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As the skies opened up on us, the outdoor (but sheltered from the downpour) terrace area of Cafe Du Monde became extremely crowded. The rain was a nice little cool down, but still not cool enough for us to order hot coffees with our breakfast.

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Robin and I made the mistake of thinking that we each needed an order of beignets. Trust me, we didn’t. They’re a sweet treat but they’re also super thick dough so they can really fill you up quickly. We also went with the iced cafe au laits, which if you’re used to black coffee like me I do not recommend. In case you didn’t know, lait means milk in French and in New Orleans it means a lot of it.

After finishing up our breakfast we went back across the street to visit the St. Louis Cathedral, which is the oldest cathedral in North America! According to a woman who worked inside, the artwork on the ceiling was a major part of historians being able to date the construction of the Cathedral way back to the late 1700s/early 1800s. This place has seen some tragedy, so I recommend taking a look through the history if you’re interested. It was absolutely beautiful to meander through.

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We sat for a moment of quiet contemplation and then got back to business: unknowingly making our trips religiously oriented historical escapades, we decided to go visit the Old Ursuline Convent next.

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The place was absolutely massive and we only wandered the ground floor, which is open to the public. The general grounds and gardens were also beautiful and we spent a few moments sitting under the shade of a large tree out back before continuing with our day. Remember this convent, remember all this cheery sunshine, because it’s going to come back in a few paragraphs…

Leaving the convent, we walked the eastern residential streets of the French Quarter to gaze upon some beautifully colored New Orleans-style homes. So many porches!

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Bourbon Street! In the day time, from the residential end.

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Back Garden goals, amirite?

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As we made our way towards the Wax Museum, our next planned destination, we became increasingly aware of the rapidly approaching (and quite threatening looking) grey clouds trailing behind us. Unfortunately, the Wax Museum was closed! And sure enough little tiny drops of rain started to fall faster and faster as we figured that out. Robin looked up the closest cafe, where we could sit and form a game plan, and so we ended up at Cafe Conti.

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I was lucky enough to get the last of the Strawberry Basil Lemonade and it was… wordlessly good. Can’t wait to try making that at home.

After a little more adventuring around the riverbanks and a quick stop at the hotel, we were on to the evening phase of our day. The calm before the Ghost & Vampire walking tour!

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Look at the size of that bird! He did not appreciate my picture taking.

We arrived a little early and decided to stroll through Louis Armstrong Park across the street for a few minutes. A super cool location with all sorts of fun bridges and structures and art work to admire, all in tribute to the jazz culture of New Orleans.

As the clock struck 7pm, we crossed back over to the Voodoo Lounge – the walking tour meeting spot. We were still early so we took advantage of the two-for-one Hurricane deal and parked ourselves at the bar. Let me say this, I freaking love this place. I honestly could have moved to New Orleans just so I could become a regular at this particular dive bar (and yes, they self identify as a dive bar on their Facebook page). While we were there, we listened to an awesome playlist (featuring ditties like ‘Lips Like Sugar’ by Echo & The Bunnymen and ‘White Lies’ by Max Frost) and learned that the bearded bartending fella, Houla, has a pretty good movie and book stash going on. ‘City of Lost Children’ was on the screen (with a few other creepy scaries stacked up behind the counter) and a handful of enticingly titled books lined the window behind us. As Robin and I flipped through the book on interesting facts and myths, Houla told us that he used to have a comprehensive Vampire lore book… but it got stolen… and I then proceeded to get very upset.

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The Voodoo Lounge

It was time for the tour to start so we carted our drinks out to meet our guide Ducky on the pavement. We booked our walking tours with a company called French Quarter Phantoms and I am telling you right now: they were so fun. If you’re interested in cool creepy walking tours with amazing guides, definitely book with this place. Hanging out in the Voodoo Lounge was enough to set me off on the right foot but Ducky knocked the experience up a few pegs and well, we just had a really great time!

I won’t spoil any of the stories but I will tell you that I was inducted into the Undead Society (and am patiently awaiting my official cape and laminated membership card) and Robin and I discovered that that Ursuline Convent we walked around earlier in the day? Yeah, big spot for New Orleans Vampire lore.

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Creepiest thing about this photo is that I can’t actually remember whether or not there really were people on that porch while we were standing under it…

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See that hoard of people walking towards the building on the right? Yeah, notice how I was not one of them. Allegedly all sorts of crazy creepy things have happened to people in and around this building (American Horror Story Coven, anyone? Delphine LaLaurie… enough said) so Robin and I weren’t taking any chances. The weird light streak that later showed up on this photo proved we had the right idea.

And then we went to Bourbon Street! And returned home to sleep with the light on and music playing all night long because we were afraid of all the stories we heard on our Ghost & Vampire tour. Two grown girls, very much decided on the fact that they were probably going to be hunted out by vampires in the night.

SATURDAY

Well, turns out we weren’t.

And the big event of our Saturday can be described in two words: cemetery tour.

But first, breakfast. We decided to go back to Cafe Conti because when we had ducked in to avoid the rain we perused the menu and the crêpe selection really caught our eyes. Definitely worth it; the coffee was fantastic and the food was exactly what we needed to carb up for the day ahead. By the time we finished we had a little bit of time left before the cemetery tour we booked so we went back to Louis Armstrong Park to relax and chat for a while.

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I freaking love cool trees. This one happened to have what looked like a ton of mini trees growing on top of the bowed branch. As I took out my camera I said “I’m gonna take a picture of that tree” and without missing a beat Robin said “I know you are.” Because I love cool trees. And I make that very evident.

We chose to book our cemetery tour with French Quarter Phantoms again because, like I said, they were so good! These guys really are expert story tellers and what’s more, you actually get the feeling that they really enjoy their jobs. This time around we were matched up with Robert, though Ducky also noticed us from the night before and said hello! Pro-tip: do the Ghost & Vampire tour at the latest available time slot and the cemetery tour at the earliest. I’m talking about heat comfort here, people.

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Robert explaining the style of New Orleans cemeteries to us: as you can see the tombs are above ground and come in many different designs. Highly recommend looking up this style of burial because it is absolutely nuts. It’s like a burial-cremation combo. The general guesstimate is around 100,000 people lying at rest in this small cemetery alone.

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St. Louis Cemetery #1 happens to be home to a lot of cool people spanning all periods of history: Homer Plessy (from Plessy vs. Ferguson), Marie Laveau (the Voodoo Queen, allegedly but not confirmed buried here), the future dead Nicholas Cage (you know who I’m talking about), and a bunch of other really interesting people. One of my favorite tombs, not pictured, was the one with the blue jazz note on top, literally called the Musicians Tomb, where musicians without a burial spot can be interred.

After the tour we stopped for some drinks to cool down then went in search of the St. Charles Ave trolley/streetcar. The Garden District bordering the French Quarter seemed like a beautiful sightseeing opportunity but let me tell you, for those of us not used to this heat and humidity walking around can get exhausting pretty quickly! We wanted to see the famous beautiful houses but weren’t about to amble up and down the streets so we hopped on a streetcar at the corner of Canal and Carondelet to swing down the length of St. Charles Ave for us. Highly recommend for those of you without a lot of time and with a desire to sit back and watch the pretty scenery go by. I like to think we got the general gist of the Garden District.

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This chateau reminded me so much of the sights in my own hometown of Newport, RI! It looks very similar to some of the historic mansions we’ve got lining Bellevue Avenue.

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A lot of the trees were absolutely covered in Mardi Gras beads, which I can’t decide how I feel about yet. They look so cool, but I can’t help but wonder how the trees fare.

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Relaxing at the hotel for a little bit to work up our appetites was next on our list, then we were out in search of boiled crawfish. I was absolutely adamant about trying them because come on, where else are you going to want to enjoy (or not enjoy, but still try!) boiled crawfish than in Louisiana? Literally no where! So we did it, and it went much better than expected. I actually liked them!

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They look positively traumatizing, and I still can’t believe that so little of them is actually eaten, but we ate this whole thing! I will admit that we watched YouTube videos to teach us how it’s correctly done.

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Robin’s first attempt: looking confident!

We conquered the crawfish and got ourselves some delicious fudge on the walk back as a reward for our triumphs, falling into bed happily sunned and full of food in anticipation of yet another early rising, long day of driving.

SUNDAY

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On our last day, we woke up relatively early (again) and decided to take one last crack at the Café Du Monde beignets before hitting the road. This time we learned our lesson and split an order. We even picked up some of their famous Coffee and Chicory (remember when I attempted to make something like that?) as a souvenir. By the time we got back to the hotel and finished up our powdered sugar coated treats, the car had been pulled ’round and we were ready to hit the road!


It was a long weekend, this is a long post, but I hope I conveyed just how much I absolutely loved every minute spent in The Big Easy.

Have you ever been to New Orleans? Are you planning on going? What’s on your list that we may have missed out on? Because I definitely plan on going back.