Showing posts with label New Orleans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Orleans. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


On February 24, 1857, a parade of floats and costumed merrymakers appeared on the streets of New Orleans.

Presented by a social club called the Mistick Krewe of C
omus, the festivities were the first Mardi Gras.

Today, dozens of “krewes” (Carnival organizations) stage
parades over a two-week time period.

And hundreds of thousands of revelers from all over the world eagerly take part in the pageantry.

My holiday-loving friends, Mo and Vince, hope you are in the mood to enjoy Mardi Gras.

one of their favorite celebrations.

They love
the larger-than-life parade floats, the jazzy marching bands, sequins, rhinestones, and the

beads, beads, beads!

Photo by Dan Mayers

Of course, Mardi Gras also brings gumbo cooked up in large cauldrons on street corners all over New Orleans (see my Feb 5, 2008 post for more parade photos and a great Gumbo recipe), great jazz blaring from loudspeakers everywhere in New Orleans, and KING CAKES.

Photo by Dan Mayers

In 2003, I was on a photo shoot in New Orleans during the week that leads up to Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras. I interviewed Arthur Hardy, longtime publisher of the annual “Mardi Gras Guide” and a nationally recognized authority on the history and collectibles associated with the festive season.Photo by Dan Mayers

I also had the thrill of riding on a Mardi Gras float.

Part of the fun was going bead shopping in a warehouse that was the size of a baseball stadium. I'm the masked woman behind Dan.

The bead "shop" was filled with more "throws" (beads, toys and other kitsch that riders can throw to parade viewers) than I ever imagined! They packed our beads in colorful nylon bags to make them easier to haul up the narrow ladders that lead up to the floats.
Throwing beads to an adoring crowd really makes you understand why dressing up as Santa Claus at Christmas is so much fun.

This Mardi Gras, Vince chose an elegant mask with white feathers.

Mo chose one with jewel-tone peacock feathers.

Got beads?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Remember me? I’m finally back home. Actually, my home doesn’t smell very sweet at the moment. It sort of stinks! It’s been a long week and I’ve been the gypsy in Duke Ellington’s blues standard ‘Gypsy Without A Song’.
I remembered to pack the shampoo, dog treats, cell phone cord and numerous other essentials BUT I forgot my iPod charger! For me, a week without my music is a real hardship.

I’ve been slowly moving things back into the house since Sunday and the place is starting to look more like home.
Belgium approves. It's his tenth birthday tomorrow (Feb 6th).
The good news is that the majority of the work is done and all of the wood floors are refinished. They look great-- and, I did dump a lot of stuff, so there was less to bring back in.
The bad news is that the refinishers accidentally broke one of a pair of antique glass shades. The sdhades are on a Mission style fixture that hangs over my kitchen table. A hole mysteriously appeared in one of the windows in my office and there are various wall dings that now need patching.
Despite some residual dust, the refinishers were extremely diligent vacuuming and tiding up. The house really feels clean.
Now, however, I’ve become obsessed with polishing and primping everything I bring back in. Especially in the kitchen where we recently bought several new appliances.
The guys sanded the butcherblock countertops and I refinished them with 7 or 8 coats of mineral oil.
Even the pots are now sparkling! (Disclaimer: I tackled the really small ones first and there are several giant ones yet undone).
Here’s a closer look at the remaining glass shade. I’ve searched thousands of shades on line and apparently mine are not a common pattern (etched grape leaves). It looks like I will have to buy a pair. Has anyone has seen a pair of nice etched antique gas fixture slant shades (4” lip fitter) with a straight (not ruffled) lower edge? If so, please let me know where.I feel like an ingrate. I didn’t get a chance to post a photo of the wonderful mosaic gift sent to me by Brook. They arrived shortly before I had to pack and go. Aren’t they super? You can check out Brook’s romantic letters on eBay. Her ID is decoratingwithroses.

I was lucky enough to be on several photo shoots in New Orleans during the week preceding Mardi Gras in 2005 and 2006 (right after Hurricane Katrina.)
The first time I visited Louisiana, I was in college. I spent a week in New Orleans and saw several parades leading up to Fat Tuesday (parades roll most afternoon and evenings for almost two weeks leading up to the big day) before traveling around the state.
On Mardi Gras Day, I was in Cajun country where centuries-old traditions were very much alive.
Masked revelers on horseback go from house to house begging for ingredients for a communal meal of gumbo.

Even today in New Orleans, Mardi Gras season is more about community than about tourists flashing their you-know-whats for a string of flashy beads."High chairs" --so the kids get a bird's eye view -- range from simple seats atop ladders to elaborate homemade contraptions.(Photo by Phil Mantas)
Marching bands provide a lively soundtrack.
Most parades are family affairs – and communal pots of food are still very much in vogue...even in the French Quarter.
Of course, there are still sequins galore.
Hope you've enjoyed the parades. I certainly did!

Now, no matter where you live, it's the season to stir up a big pot of seafood gumbo. Here's my favorite recipe.
2-3 lbs Shrimp (heads or at least shells on)
12-24 clams
1/2 lb crabmeat
Some oysters
2 bottles of clam juice
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup flour
2 stalks celery
1 onion
3 scallions or shallots
Handful parsley
1 Cubanelle green pepper
1-2 jalapenos
1 habanero
Tomato paste

SPICES: 1 teaspoon each salt, black pepper, paprika, thyme, onion, garlic

2 more bottles clam juice

In large heavy pot: Cook shrimp and clams in 2 bottles of clam juice mixed with water to cover. When shrimp are barely pink, scoop out. When clams open, scoop them out. Pour liquid into a bowl and SAVE. When shrimp and clams have cooled down, remove all shells and put in a bowl in fridge.

With 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup flour make a light brown roux in same large heavy pot. Chop veggies and hot peppers in Cuisinart and add to roux. Stir around for about 5 minutes. Add a few tablespoons of tomato paste and all of the spices. Cook for two to three minutes. Add reserved shrimp liquid. Add 2 more bottles of clam juice. Heat for 10 minutes, then let sit on stove until needed.

Just before serving add oysters and crab meat and cook for a few minutes on low heat. Add shrimp and clams. Serve with rice.

*** BLOG DU JOUR ***

For photos from this year’s parades visit Bayou Contessa. Scroll down to see some great homes that Contessa Julie Neill loves.