Inspiration on the road

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I love road trips. There’s something about watching the landscape shift as it zips past, framed by the car window, that puts me at ease. And while I used to spend any time I had in the car doing something “productive” like knitting, reading, or (I can’t believe I’m saying this) working, more and more I’m just letting myself be. And that’s exactly what I did on our trip to New Orleans last week. For the most part, it was heavenly. Our boys travel well and we planned several stops along the way to keep us all entertained.

One of our absolute favorite stops was a bit of an afterthought. We were telling friends about our plans to visit St. Louis to see the Gateway Arch when they mentioned the City Museum. So we went. I have one word for the City Museum: WOW. If you have a creative bone in your body (you know you do), you must check this place out. Housed in an old multi-level shoe factory downtown, the City Museum is basically a huge indoor and outdoor playground for kids of all ages, constructed entirely of recycled items. There are miles of tunnels to crawl through that lead to entire underground worlds, old airplanes to explore, giant metal “bird” cages to climb through, vintage fire trucks to play in, and amazing slides, including one that corkscrews down from a height of 10 stories. (See boys in entrance to one of the outdoor slides above)

But for me I think the best part was noticing the creative ways the museum made use of things that would otherwise be tossed in the trash. Take, for instance, this valance of vintage neck ties (below, left). How cool is that?  Or this nifty use of old floor grates as a unique wall covering? (below, right) Inspiration was everywhere, and I couldn’t stop snapping photos. We spent five hours exploring every nook and cranny and the boys still did not want to leave. I think this might be my happy place.

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We headed on down the road and had lunch the next day at Mammy’s Cupboard, a roadside attraction from days gone by just outside of Natchez, Mississippi. And can you believe this fantastic use of a screen door below? They backed it with cool fabric and used it to block the view into the kitchen. (If you haven’t read it already, check out my earlier post on my fondness for old screen doors.) This place also served a banana caramel cream pie that was to die for, blueberry lemonade, and blueberry chutney. Now I know what to do with the rest of those Canadian blueberries in my freezer.  I was in heaven.

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We did eventually make it to sunny, hot Louisiana, where the air was heavy and smelled faintly floral. In St Francisville (this is where we are above, right), a small town north of Baton Rouge that I absolutely love, I woke up early one morning and headed out for a run through fog so thick I could barely make out the silhouette of the live oaks, draped in Spanish moss, in the park next door. New Orleans was a mess of torn up roads and construction, but I loved it just the same. We visited family (ate), made the obligatory beignet stop at Cafe du Monde (ate), strolled through the French Market, had muffulettas from the Central Market (ate), watched a couple of hours of amateur magic shows in Jackson Square, and managed to find the dog in the mini coffin that plays dead for money (the boys really wanted to see this!). Finally we made our way back north, where it’s been cool and dreary. But I’m still warm, thinking of the sunburn that kissed the back of my neck a week ago today. And best of all, I’ve returned with about a half dozen inspiring ideas for crafty projects bouncing around in my head that I’m anxious to try when I find a spare moment. Those are better than any souvenir money can buy.

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