Sunday’s Sundries: Anxiety

Sundries - Dominic Hartnett
Image: Dominic Hartnett

For those of you who regularly read the posts I write here at Fortified By Books, you probably noticed that this past Friday I did not post my weekly Fit Readers check-in.  It’s the first time I haven’t posted a check-in since I joined Fit Readers.  I simply didn’t have the spoons to look at my FitBit stats and write about what has been going on.  Instead, I chilled out on the couch with my cat and watched Parenthood.

As many of you know I have dealt with Anxiety and Depression for years.  I’ve considered myself lucky to not have to be on any kind of medication for over a decade.  That changed this week.

Until Tuesday afternoon, I was feeling pretty good.  I’ve got a great boyfriend who’s family is amazing.  I’ve got a job that, while it’s not my dream job, pays the bills.  I’ve got friends, and this blog, and a hundred other things in my life that are either great or at least going well.  So why did I have an anxiety attack at work?  Why did the panicky feelings continue into the evening and then on into Wednesday?  For the first time, I have no idea.  Usually, my anxiety escalates during major life changes, not when my day to day life is stable.

For the first time since my first anxiety attack when I was a teenager, I was scared for myself.  I knew I had lost control and needed help.  I called my Doctor.  I said “Yes” when I was asked if I was open to medication.  I took my new meds for the first time on Thursday morning, and while I’m doing pretty well, SSRIs are not the kind of pills you just take and then everything is magically better.  Hence the lack of spoons to write a simple weekly blog post.

While I can’t promise that I’ll definitely have a Fit Readers post up this Friday or any other post for that matter, I’m slowly adding back in all the activities I normally do as long as I feel I have the energy.  I’m not going anywhere.  This blog and the community of book bloggers I’m a part of means too much to me to shut it down.  So, I’ll see you back here as soon as I can.

Lit-Cube Unboxing: You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch!

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This was another great box from LitCube.  While I’m looking forward to reading The Humbug Murders, I know I’ll never read the two-in-one Romance novel, so I included it in a Christmas gift to someone I thought might enjoy it.  My favorite item so far is the shirt, which I wore on Christmas day.  Now that I’m back home from visiting with the Boyfriend’s family, I plan on trying out the soap.

  • “You’re A Mean One” Grinch Long-Sleeve T-Shirt
  • Frosting Spatula
  • “Book Nerd” Christmas Ornament
  • “Lump of Coal” Peppermint Soap with a 20% Coupon Code
  • Mini Candy Cane
  • The Christmas Cottage and Ever After by Samantha Chase
  • The Humbug Murders by L.J. Oliver
  • QR Code for A Titan For Christmas by Aria Kane

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January’s theme is “Perfect Penpals.”  I’m interested to see just what will be in the box since every box now includes a wearable item and a snack in addition to other items and books.  If you’re interested in trying out LitCube, there are five days left to order the box for January.  Also, I got a discount code in my email that gives 10% off one box: NEWYEAR10 🙂  Happy New Year!

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Sunday’s Sundries: Lit-Cube Unboxing

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I’ve been a subscriber of Book Riot’s Quarterly box since it started, but I’ve been feeling like the quality of each box has slowly declined.  So when I found out about Lit-Cube, a monthly subscription box, I decided to try it out.  I recently cancelled a monthly music subscription, and after deducting the amount I had been spending on that, what I’d be paying for Lit-Cube would be about the same as what I was shelling out for Book Riot’s Quarterly boxes ($55, four times a year).  I would also be getting more for my buck.  However, if I hadn’t cancelled that other subscription, I wouldn’t have subscribed to Lit-Cube, since it’s $34.98 a month, and I couldn’t afford that and the other sub.  To be fair, from what I’ve seen, that’s about average for monthly subscription boxes.

Every Lit-Cube box is put together around a theme.  Book Riot’s Quarterly box does the same, but the difference is that Lit-Cube’s themes are considerably more fun.  You’re not going to get Literary Fiction with Lit-Cube, so if that’s what you’re looking for, stick with Book Riot.  For this month, Lit-Cube’s theme was titled “Immortal Kiss”.  Yep, that’s right, vampires!  I don’t think Lit-Cube could have picked a better theme for the month I decided to give it a try, since, while I love all things vampire, I’m a bit picky too.  Here is what was included in this month’s box:

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  • Hardcover Edition of Tentyrian Legacy by Elise Waters ($19.99)
  • “Only Dracula Can Truly Love You Forever…” Lit-Cube Exclusive Lined Journal ($9.99)
  • Cotton and Silk “Holiday Skulls” Infinity Scarf ($9.99)
  • Lippincott Soap Company “Bite Me” Black Cherry Lip Balm ($9.99)
  • 5×7 Dracula-Inspired Water Color Print ($6.99)
  • Book Swag including a “Time Warper” series Pocket Mirror, a Ball-Point Pen that looks like a syringe, an Erin Hayes Autographed Bookmark, and QR Coded Bookmarks for other free and discounted ebooks.

Even if I don’t end up liking the books (I haven’t read them yet), all the other stuff makes this vampire-themed box worth the money I paid for it.  December’s theme is “You’re a Mean One, Grinch.”  I’m looking forward to it 🙂
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Join Lit-Cube!

New Orleans: Part 2

If you didn’t already know, the Boyfriend and I went on a long weekend trip to New Orleans.  I wasn’t able to fit everything we saw and did into one post, so if you missed it, check out Part 1 to find out what happened on Friday night and Saturday.

Sunday:

We woke up a bit earlyish after crashing Saturday evening, so we decided Sunday had to be the day we fit in as much as possible before leaving after breakfast on Monday.  However, we also chose to do whatever we wanted when we wanted, with only a couple exceptions.  When we weren’t shopping or eating, we were stopping at locations that I wrote about in my Vampire Tour of New Orleans post.

First, we went out to find breakfast.  Since Café du Monde is ridiculously crowded during the day, especially in the morning, we headed out to another cafe that supposedly had excellent beignets, Cafe Beignet.  There was a long line there as well, but not nearly as bad as at Café du Monde.

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While we waited, I happened to see a display of poison rings in the window of a jewelry store.  If you know anything about French history, poison rings, also known as pillbox rings or funeral rings, were popular during the 16th and 17th centuries.  They were used to kill unsuspecting victims for a variety of reasons, usually political, as well as to hold keepsakes, especially for loved ones who passed away.  My first thought was of a certain scene in Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon involving the apothecary.  I knew I had to have one for myself, so I stepped into the store while the Boyfriend stayed in line.

 

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After that, we got through the line and were lucky enough to get a table so we could eat all the food we ordered.  If you’re ever in the French Quarter, and you have a craving for beignets or a crawfish omelet, you can’t go wrong with Cafe Beignet.

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Not everything there made me nervous.

 

 

With our breakfast eaten, we decided it was time to shop.  We went into every store we thought looked interesting as we wandered around, including Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo.  The Boyfriend wanted to find a decent book on Voodoo for something he’s writing, and I was a bit curious.  My curiosity turned into a feeling of foreboding once we got further into the store, and I became even more uncomfortable the longer we were in there.  Then the Boyfriend pointed out that I was standing directly beneath a hand carved wooden Ouija board.  Normally I’m not superstitious or put much stock in potions, spells, and other things like that.  I do believe in magic but only within the confines of the fictional worlds I read about in my books.  However, that store was legit.  It wasn’t anything like the touristy wannabe Voodoo store we saw later.  While not everything made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, all I wanted to do was buy the tarot cards I found and get out of there.

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We decided to head back to the hotel to give our feet a break, so we stopped at the Central Grocery to pick up a muffuletta on the way.  While eating it, I discovered that I had never had Italian bread that was made correctly before.  I can now say that real Italian bread rivals French bread, and I want to learn how to make it.

 

 

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Random Scot near Jackson Square.

 

 

Once we had eaten our lunch and cooled off, we headed out again, but this time to the French Market.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed with the wares.  It was like every other flea market I’ve been to and full of cheaply made goods from China.  The food section, however, was excellent.  We took a short break to sit down and drink the fruit smoothies we bought at the Organic Banana and then we finally found jars of Mayhaw Jelly at French Market Produce (we had been looking everywhere).

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My favorite color AND Shakespeare? Sold!

 

 

 

 

From there, we went looking for a shop that sold socks because, by that point, I had a spot on my ankle that had been rubbed raw by my shoes.  When I packed for the trip, I remembered to pack my running shoes in case my other shoes didn’t cut it, but I forgot to pack the right socks to wear with them.  Of course, I switched to my running shoes almost immediately after getting to New Orleans.  When I realized my mistake, the Boyfriend sweetly gave me the spare pair of socks he packed, but I wore those on Saturday.  I thought I’d be ok with the little “footies” I packed, but I was wrong.

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We hadn’t planned on eating dinner so early, but shortly after we found my new socks, we came across a little restaurant called Cafe Amelie.  We remembered that Cafe Amelie had been one of the listings when we searched for places that had shrimp and grits.  We were starting to get tired, so we thought it must be fate.  We chose to sit outside in their little courtyard.  Well, the weather suddenly changed and it began to rain.  The wait staff quickly set up large table umbrellas, but even then, we found ourselves getting very cozy with the two couples at the table next to us.  They were in New Orleans for Southern Decadence, and I think chatting and laughing while helping keep all of us and our food out of the downpour turned a potential disaster into a hilariously good time.

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After the rain had stopped and we were full of yummy food, we waddled back to the hotel.  We decided to rest for the remainder of our last evening so we could get up early on Monday.  Also, the Boyfriend surprised me with a 20th anniversary limited autographed edition of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire.  I don’t know where or how he managed to find it, considering the 20th anniversary was 19 years ago, and it’s never been opened, but he once again gets the Best Boyfriend Ever award.

Monday Morning:

We decided to go to the other cafe that had been recommended by the hotel desk clerk, Cafe Envie.  We quickly figured out that Cafe Envie is where the locals go.  We definitely stuck out as we stood there staring at the menu trying to decide what to order.  While I was eating one of the best breakfasts I’ve had in my life, I overheard customer after customer get asked something along the lines of, “The usual, [insert name here]?”  I have yet to find a cafe like Cafe Envie in Austin.

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Eggs Envie with hash browns. Not pictured is the amazing almond croissant I also devoured.

While our trip to New Orleans wasn’t perfect, it’s one I’ll never forget, and I will go back again one of these days.  There’s still so much to see and do, and I wish we had had a week.

New Orleans: Part 1

There was so much that the Boyfriend and I saw and did in New Orleans that I couldn’t condense it down to one post.  So, I’m breaking up our four-day trip into two parts.  Part 1 concerns our first night and day there, leaving our second day and last morning for Part 2.

Friday night:
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Sign on the edge of Faubourg Marigny

We arrived at our hotel just off the French Quarter in the Faubourg Marigny in the early evening.  At least, it was early for New Orleans.  We were staying in a historic hotel, meaning everything was original, or replica antebellum-style furnishings and the interior hadn’t been renovated to fit modern tastes (with the exception of electricity and other important technology of course).  The staircase railing was so old, it was held by strategically placed metal bracings to keep it up and safely useable.

A word of caution: If you’re planning on staying in a historic hotel, be prepared for some slightly less modern levels of cleanliness.  The women who came in to clean the room mopped the carpet and picked up debris with an ancient roller-style vacuum.  Walking around barefoot left my soles black with dirt.  Needless to say, I started wearing my sandals around the room so I wouldn’t have to worry about tracking dirt into the sheets.

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One of the buildings of the hotel, and a view of our private balcony.

The first thing we did after getting the car into the hotel’s tiny, cramped parking area ($30 a night to park, and that’s considered cheap) and getting our stuff up to our room, was to head to Café du Monde for some dinner sugary goodness.  On the way, we came across a parasol shop, so of course I had to buy my inner goth a fancy black parasol.

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By the time we got back from eating beignets, the long drive, and then the walk to the cafe and back caught up with us, and we crashed for the night.  Or at least I did.  The Boyfriend wasn’t so lucky.

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View from the side of our balcony.

 

Another word of caution: The hotel happened to be across from a Blues bar, which didn’t shut down until around 3 or 4 am.  I love Blues music, but the house band seemed only to know how to play a couple songs well, and the later it got, the worse they played.  If you require quiet to sleep, don’t think that earplugs will do the trick, and don’t get a room facing the street.

Saturday:
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We both got Rose Benedict.

 

Few places are open for business prior to 11 am, but the hotel desk clerk gave us a couple suggestions for a great breakfast.  One was the Cafe Rose Nicaud, and the other was Cafe Envie.  We chose to try out Cafe Rose Nicaud first.
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After breakfast, we headed back to our room to rest a bit before we needed to head into the French Quarter to meet up for a cemetery tour.  We left early since we weren’t sure where the place was, and then we waited and people watched.  There were tourists everywhere, a jazz band playing in the street, street performers scattered around the corners, and homeless people with handmade signs asking for help.  Forget about having a conversation while in the heart of the French Quarter.  However, I did get several compliments about my parasol.

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The sign on the building where Tennessee Williams wrote A Streetcar Named Desire. It’s now a t-shirt shop.

 

Our tour guide was a few minutes late, and our meet up point was in one of the busiest parts of the French Quarter.  The information about the tour failed to mention it was actually two hours long, and the hour it was supposed to be was only for once we arrived at St. Louis Cemetery.

 

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Allison “Tootie” Montana Mardi Gras Indian statue on the edge of Congo Square.

 

 

 

Because of this lack of information, we had only brought a couple bottles of water with us.  I don’t know what kind of arrangement the tour company has with the people selling water along the way to the cemetery, but we felt we were deliberately not told how long the tour would really be.  Though we learned a lot about the French Quarter, we were so hot, tired, and irritable we only took a couple of photos.

We chose not to take photos in the cemetery because that whole portion of the tour felt disrespectful.  Our tour guide seemed to be more interested in telling us about the superstitions concerning Marie Laveau and made a spectacle out of the whole experience.  Also, I felt deeply sad for all the people buried there who hadn’t been able to afford to pay the Catholic Church for perpetual care or no longer had any family to care for their tombs.  Many of them were crumbling into a pile of rubble, the name markers completely gone or damaged to the point that I couldn’t read the names or the dates.  Many more had been vandalized.  All I could think was how little respect for the dead do people have to let any of this happen?

After the tour, we stumbled our heat exhausted, sunburnt, and dehydrated selves to Acme Oyster House, but they had a ridiculously long line.  I absolutely needed to sit down and drink lots of water, and I didn’t want to wait any longer to do so, so we went next door to the Bourbon House, which also had oysters.  I personally think oysters, mussels, and clams are disgusting and akin to eating loogies, but the Boyfriend wanted to have oysters at least once while we were in New Orleans.  There was plenty of other food on the menu, and I just wanted a place to sit more than anything else.  I’m glad we chose to park our butts there because the French bread was fantastic, the shrimp po’boy was delicious, and the crème brûlée was marvelous.  Had it not been a nicer establishment, I would have licked the shallow bowl the crème brûlée came in.

(picture an empty bowl where a serving of crème brûlée used to be)

We made it back to the hotel around 6 pm, but we were so tired we were in bed by 8 pm, figuring we could head back out if we woke a few hours later.  We didn’t, and you’ll find out what happened when we finally did get out of bed in Part 2.

The Vampire Tour of New Orleans

If you’ve been reading my posts for the past couple of weeks, you already know that the Boyfriend and I took a long-weekend trip to New Orleans to celebrate our second anniversary.  Both of us are huge fans of vampire stories, especially Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles.  While vampires weren’t the sole reason we chose to go to New Orleans, If you know anything about Louis and Lestat, you know they spent a lot of their time together in the city.  The Boyfriend attempted to find a decent vampire tour, but the few offered seemed hoaky and cheap.  So, we created our own, or rather, I searched through my copy of the Vampire Companion for all the places in New Orleans mentioned in the books.

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I was not prepared for how large the French Quarter is, and the map in the Vampire Companion is deceptive.  I’ll be writing more about that in my next post about New Orleans, but to put it simply, we never made it out of the French Quarter to see the Garden District or City Park.  However, on our drive back home we stopped off at the Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, LA.

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Now, this is not the actual plantation that Louis and Lestat live at in The Interview with the Vampire.  Pointe du Lac is entirely fictional and based on the West Indies style Pitot House.  However, Oak Alley was used, both inside and out, in the film adaptation for several scenes.  It’s also one of the biggest and most popular antebellum plantations still in existence.  The photo above is of the various souvenirs and such I got from the gift shop or as part of the tour, and the one below was taken from the front balcony of the house during the tour.

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Side Note: Have you ever wished all the people would just go away so you could get the perfect shot?  That’s why we didn’t drive out to the levee to take photos of the front.

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While we were in the French Quarter, we spent a lot of time in and around Jackson Square, which is in front of St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest church in the United States.  Unfortunately, we never made it inside the Cathedral due to their Labor Day weekend hours not being listed on the website.  It was closed to the public when we had planned on visiting during our last day in New Orleans.  We also visited St. Louis Cemetery, which is just outside the French Quarter.  Due to a high rate of vandalism and grave robbery, no one is allowed into the cemetery without a tour guide and only during the day.  We took one of the cemetery tours, but for reasons I’ll get into in a later post, we didn’t take any photos.  For now I’ll just say that it was the most depressing part of our whole trip.

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The last place we visited in the French Quarter is another building that Anne Rice used as a model for one of the many fictional places in her books.  The Gallier House wasn’t built until the 19th century; however, Anne Rice’s description of the townhouse Louis, Lestat, and Claudia live in for 65 years on the 2nd floor is based on this historic building.  The townhouse is returned to again and again throughout the Vampire Chronicles, and though it is open to the public, we didn’t know that or about the website when we were planning our trip.  Side Note: for a city that relies so heavily on tourism, it’s difficult to find information about anything not having to do with hauntings or partying.

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The Café du Monde also comes up on multiple occasions throughout the Vampire Chronicles, but I’m saving that for my future posts about the French Quarter.

Packing for New Orleans…

As promised, here are the books that the Boyfriend and I are taking with us to New Orleans to celebrate our 2nd anniversary.  I don’t know how many of these we’ll get through since we’ll be busy eating all.the.food. and seeing all.the.things, but the 1st two are audiobooks to try out on the drive there and back.

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  • A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams – This is a full-cast recording that I found at the library when I did a catalog search for books set in New Orleans.
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole – This is an audiobook I found under the same search terms.
  • Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice – I know it’s cliché, but it’s been well over a decade since I read The Vampire Chronicles, and I’ve wanted to re-read them for awhile now.  The Boyfriend just finished this one, and he demanded that I not start it until we’re in New Orleans.  He’s now reading The Vampire Lestat.  Yep, we’re both big into vampires, as long as they don’t sparkle.
  • “Drabblecast”, “Hypnobobs”, and “Pseudopod” podcasts – In the spirit of RIP X, the Boyfriend and I will listen to these gothic, horror, and weird short story podcasts if the audiobooks don’t work out.  Isn’t it awesome that I’ve found someone who loves these kinds of stories as much as I do?  I’m one lucky gal.  I might write a sort of review of them at some point or give a Top Ten list of the best short stories.

We are also taking along my copy of The Vampire Companion by Katherine Ramsland, which covers The Vampire Chronicles up to Memnoch the Devil.  All of the currently offered vampire tours in New Orleans seem a bit hoaky, so the Boyfriend and I have decided to make our own.  We’ll be combining our crappy photography skills so hopefully I’ll having something to show you when we get back.