Portrait of Ardis

Kate’s first caregiver, Ms. Gladys, (blog mentions of her are here) retired last week.  I used to hang out with Gladys when Kate was a baby. Usually it was to nurse (since Kate was adverse to the bottle and I am adverse to the pump) but sometimes when I’d go in for that afternoon feeding, it was hard to leave. I’d help out around the room, giving a bottle, changing a diaper, or rocking someone to sleep. The perk was that it meant I got to talk to Gladys. Gladys can tell it straight, but has a way of gently leading you to the answer so that you come to it in your own time. She is such a wonderful listener that it is easy to get carried away and babble on and on to her soft affirmations. Eventually, it got easier to ask her questions. This was how I learned about her daughter, Ardis, who died shortly before the Flood came and engulfed their home, taking with it most of their physical memories.

Abeona threw a big surprise retirement party for her last Saturday, with people there representing her 27 years of service.  We helped a friend put together a book, scanning pictures and sending photographs from Abeona’s first three years.  She did a fantastic job on the book, which included photos, stories from families, scanned art projects, and memories reflecting many years of work. But I wanted to do something else and asked for help from staff to make it happen.

As I understand, it took some serious work to get this photograph scanned — the last one taken of Ardis. 

As usual, I forgot about taking photographs of the process until I was well into the piece.

This was my toughest portrait to date, mostly because I was so very nervous to do it.  It felt very personal and, in a way, invasive to be doing this as a surprise.  She hadn’t asked me to do this because she felt I could do the job correctly — it was something I was just doing.  What if there was something I missed?

This is the only finished photograph I have — I didn’t take any of it in it’s frame.

Even now, I’m at a loss of what to say about it.

This is Ardis.  She was a beautiful, smart young woman born to an amazing, compassionate woman.  It was a pleasure to draw her.

Arts & Photography
Family Life in NOLA
Life in New Orleans

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My first ever night at Tip’s

Did that belly dancing class make us uppity?  First we’re umming, then we’re all blinging out, and before you know it, we’re having drinks and splitting burritos at young co-ed haunts on Saturday nights.

Oh, and then?  We’re going out for live music and dancing.

This is Katie Herzig.  If you’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy, you’ve heard her — she’s wonderfully talented, plucking out those mellow chords and lyrical phrases. Here’s the song you’re likely to have heard (a-la Grey’s):


She was a Lagniappe, the unexpected opening act.  I truly had no idea that the headlining act wouldn’t START until 11pm.

We chugged huge vats of iced coffee before the show, just in case.

I know I’ve gone on and on about the Photovoice project cameras.  And while I’m not saying that my recommendations are powerful enough to produce dramatic market changes, I do find it incredibly suspicious that these cameras (which we bought for the project at $109 a piece — on sale marked down from $139) are now $300 on Amazon.  (Office Depot is selling them in the $130s.)

At first, I played around with the ISO (this is the 800 setting) and then with the shutter priority mode.

All this trouble was completely justified.  It was for the Indigo Girls, after all.

I didn’t realize it, but Emily (the musician on the right) went to Tulane!  She gave a big heartfelt shout-out to Tip’s, mentioning her own first music experiences in the venue.   Both she and Amy took every opportunity to remind the crowd of the groups they were there to support.

The venue, Tipitina‘s, sits on the corner of an Uptown neighborhood street, near the railroad and docks.  Once upon a time it was a neighborhood bar and juke joint.  It’s been home to many (if not most) of New Orleans’ beloved musicians — but the club is dedicated to Henry Roeland Byrd, (a.k.a. Professor Longhair), one of the most revered rhythm and blues musicians in the legacy of New Orleans music.

Tipitina’s holds a wide range of community activities and runs a Foundation that brings instruments to local kids.  They sponsor events where musicians mentor students, including training in musician business skills and industry internships.  They hold events that raise money for organizations dedicated to preserving the unique heritage and traditions of our city.  The concert was part of an “activism night” for Tipitina’s and local organizations that the Indigo Girls support.

(Also?  The camera does video…!)

Untitled from Cold Spaghetti on Vimeo.

It was my first night inside Tip’s.  The two story space is like a big barn — U shaped second floor with open center and big dance floor below.  It has that special mix of history and intimacy one expects in New Orleans; you feel the energy of the evening on the back of the energy from the day before.  It feels familiar and exciting all at the same time.

Here is a recording of the full song in the clip above:

Indigo Girls – Land Of Canaan (Official Music Video)Click here for another funny movie.

The concert was fantastic.

I was thrilled they played Land of Canaan AND Watershed, neither of which I think I’ve heard them play live before.

They played quite a bit from their new album, which is fantastic — it goes back to the sounds of some of their older music.

Actually, they played nonstop for 2 hours… from 11 until 1am.

One of the fundraising activities for the night was the opportunity to sing “Closer to Fine” on stage with them… and get a recording of it… to the highest bidder.

It went for $9,000.

I know. WOW.

And of course someone in our group knew the winner.  I hear she’s an OB-GYN?  She actually bid with a group of friends, so all four were on the stage, but she sang the second verse all by herself.

They played a couple of encores… the last one was Galileo.  Bonerama was hanging around, so they joined the Girls on the stage.  I’m not sure if the members of Bonerama had ever really heard the song before?  But whatever.  Everyone was singing so loudly I’m not sure if mattered.  You decide:

Indigo Girls and Bonerama from Cold Spaghetti on Vimeo.

Either way, it was a way cool concert and an awesome New Orleans’ night!

Thanks, Chrissie, for getting the tickets and EVERYONE for making it great!


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Bling nite

It was after 3am when I crawled into bed Saturday night.  I was out late.  With the girls.

Oooooh, yes.

But that is not where this story starts.  It starts with a Girls Nite from a few weeks back.  A jewelry-making fundraiser, for one of my favorite nonprofits, sponsored and organized by some wonderful people.  Followed, later by drinks.

Doesn’t this lady look too beautiful to have three children under 5 and a big school to manage?  Let alone do fundraisers?!

Georgia at The Bead Shop donated her shops wares and the personal talents of her staff — we all made beautiful accessories and hung out.

I brought one of the cameras in our Photovoice project.  I’m so thrilled with these cameras and very impressed by the options and handling.  It’s nice having something little to pull out quickly, even if all my friends look at me as if I’ve suddenly become ill, “isn’t that a little… SMALL for you…?” they ask in a worried glance.

Well, yes, true.  But I’m practicing what I preach to the research team.  It’s not about the level of fancy in the camera… it’s how you use it, right?

Focusing is actually the most difficult part.  Maybe it’s that I’m used to my many possibly focal points and having manual focus so easily accessible — but it was tough for me to focus on smaller foreground objects (like the earrings below), even on the “macro” camera setting.

It took a couple of tries to get this, and even still, I couldn’t quite get the main focus on the first earring in the row, as I wanted.  Practice, practice.

We picked out a strand, a pendant, and some supplies.  Then we sat down and ate, laughed, and threaded until we all had new bling.

Georgia helped with the finer details.

The incredible food was donated by friends at Cochon.

Don’t ask me what it all was.  I’ve blocked it all from memory and replaced it with the word GOOD.

It was somewhere in the middle of all of this that we re-affirmed our plans (first made at our Belly-Dancing girls nite) for Indigo Girls…

Arts & Photography
Family Life in NOLA

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Eggs in Hiding

About two weeks ago, my friend Magpie posted a recipe for “Eggs in Hiding,” which she had come across while nostalgically flipping through old cookbooks.


1 T. butter
1 can condensed tomato soup
½ pound American cheese, diced
6 hard-cooked eggs
1 cup cereal flakes, crushed

Heat butter and soup in top of double boiler. Add cheese and cook until melted, stirring constantly. Arrange halves of hard-cooked eggs (cut lengthwise) in buttered baking dish. Pour cheese mixture over eggs. Sprinkle with cereal flakes. Brown under broiler. Serves 6.

I know.  Awesome right?

Mag challenged folks to make it.  A few jumped to the challenge in an instant.  Me, well, fast is relative during Jazz Fest season but I managed to think ahead and make preparations over the weekend.  Tonight’s experiment almost failed between the kids stealing cheese while I’m trying to peel eggs, Kate’s diaper explosion and necessary immediate shower, Will coming in covered in mud, and Paul coming in covered in mud AND insulation… all while I’m suppose to be stirring continuously and/or watching a broiler.  But, I pulled it off!

I even took pictures.  (These were taken with one of the point-and-shoot cameras from the Photovoice project — I’m trying to get more familiar with them and the more I use it, the more fantastic a camera I think this is for the price.  But I digress.)

The recipe calls for American, but I used a domestic Cheddar (sounds fancy, huh?)  Also, I used two cans of tomato soup.

I didn’t want leftovers, so I only used 4 eggs.

Here’s the soup and cereal on top.  Will ate the box of corn flakes before I had a chance to make it, so we actually had to go and buy a second box for the recipe.

It’s under the broiler now.  Considering all the running around I did while it was cooking in there, I was surprised it didn’t burn.  Also, the eggs were made Saturday and had been in the fridge since then — but everything was warm through when it came out of the oven.

The finished product!  It had started to brown a tiny bit in the top center.

FINAL REPORT: They loved it!

No, really, they did.  And this is really saying something, as my kids make a point to try to starve themselves at dinner time.  But you don’t have to take my word for it…

Eggs in Hiding from Cold Spaghetti on Vimeo.


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Jazz Fest May Day

We’ve lived here for 5 years now and we’ve just figured out Jazz Fest.

Here’s how it works.  You hang out.  You somewhat randomly wander around, meeting up with friends, checking out crafts and tents, getting food, and (of course) hearing music.  If you LET the magic happen, it will.

Here are a few random highlights that show a little of what we saw… I apologize that I did not capture in photographs more of what we did.  I was very busy dancing, listening, talking, eating, laughing… you know, doing.

Here’s Washboard Chaz.

Here’s Beausoliel avec Michael Doucet.  This is a few hours before Paul realized Mr. Doucet was standing directly behind me in the plantain and spinach food line. (You can click here to go and hear “Alligator Purse.”)

Gospel Tent… with typical Jazz Fest magic.  That’s Paul Sanchez in the back (see his black jacket and hat?) and Trombone Shorty.  The tuba?  He’s from Rebirth.  Apparently, they are buddies of the singer and came over to back him up on this bit.  We just happened to be walking by the tent when this started and a random photographer walked up to us to tell us that folks from Rebirth were backing up the singer and it was awesome.  We walked in and were thrilled to… “wait, is that Paul Sanchez?!” … before settling in for awhile.

By the way, if you haven’t heard it, I love Paul Sanchez’s song Sedation…

Friends Ecoee and Melody shared their brass pass… and we enjoyed the refreshing WWOZ tent, impressive fruit spread, and clean bathrooms.

Doc Watson and family.  Yup, THE Doc Watson.

And yes, they did Tennessee Stud.

The tent was PACKED.

We had to get the kids by 5 and with our regular tickets could not be re-admitted.  Instead, we picked up the kids and went back to Ecoee and Melody’s, where we watched Tony Bennett from their front porch.

We tried to impress upon Will the Tony Bennett coolness factor…

This is our view — that’s our white car on the street and a jazz fest flag flying from their porch to the top right.  See the stage, upper right?  That’s Tony in the yellow jacket.

The porch is fantastic for sound.  Things are a little loud when you’re in the field… but right outside?  Perfect, just right.

No, really, it’s him!

There he is, taking his bow.  The show was all standards and it was awesome.  He dedicated “The Good Life” to Britney Spears, which made me feel a little badly for Britney because I thought we were sort of over picking on her.  Ah, well, I guess when you’re Tony Bennett, you decide what’s in and what’s out.

By the way, it’s humid and well into the 80s and the dude was out there for over an hour belting out note after note, sounding JUST like he did 40 years ago.  Amazing.

Once everyone got back from the Fest, we had a great night hanging in the pool and talking while the kids played… without meltdown or fuss… until 10pm.  I can’t think of any stronger magic than that.

Family Life in NOLA

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Okay. NOW that Fest.

Paul and I have limited Jazz Fest experience, all of which has so far been tremendously excellent.

So why would we want to bring the kids and ruin a perfectly good record?

At least, this is what we thought.

But last Saturday, the first weekend of this year’s Fest, we couldn’t help but want to have the kids there.  The Imagination Movers were the first act up on the Acura Stage and a huge masse of their friends (read: our friends) were going to be there, too. 

We sucked it up and shelled out the extra $5 to bring them.

Thank goodness. It was awesome.

The awesomeness was not in small part to our incredible friends. No really, these people can do all sorts of mind-boggling things like have crew passes so that they can sneak in boxes of juice drinks and get in birthday cakes with their booth exhibition materials and simply just be so cool that they know all the local celebrities and yet aren’t embarrassed by us when we show up with our flies down. Because we are just that kind of classy.

We hung out before the gates opened with friends who live right outside the race tracks.  (Yet another example of cool.) Fate took over and somehow we all met at the stage perfectly, a huge hodge-podge of families and friends taking over with strollers. We wore the kids on our shoulders and danced around as if none of us had ever experienced back problems. (Probably because we managed to send someone out for frozen cafe au lait and rosemint tea before the music started).

We love Imagination Movers.

Message to parents who are suffering from a household full of The Wiggles or Ralph (or, heavens to Betsy, Barney!)… CHECK OUT THE IMAGINATION MOVERS.  You will thank me.

We hung out with an Imagination Mover spouse.  (A friend of our friend Kathryn, whose husband was the original “Warehouse Mouse” in early videos and who now does crew stuff for the band… the Movers gave a shout out birthday wish to her son during the performance… see what I mean about the coolness?) Years ago, Kathryn introduced me to her at a music performance at Tulane (a girls’ night from long, long ago).  Can you guess which Mover she’s married to?

I love people who understand the importance of accessories.

But I’m not giving anything away.

Nina, one of the cast members on their Playhouse Disney TV show, came by to say “hi.”

(I know.  I didn’t realize we were that cool, either.)

The kids loved it.  Despite the strong morning sun, Kate played a rattle and dutifully performed all moves as instructed.  Us parents had a few head scratching moments when they busted into “She Sells Sanctuary.” (Um… did they just play “The Cult?”)  And we all sang along to “In a Big Country,” their finale.

But Jazz Fest is about so much more than music.  The food.  Oh… the food.

Kate clearly understands that one should not delve into snowballs until so much mango freeze has been ingested that the skin starts to turn orange.

Her Jazz Fest food of choice was cochon du lait po’boy.  With the spicy coleslaw.  As if there would be any other.  (I promise I will get food pictures next time.)

We visited our friend Mark’s booth.

Mark made the tiles in our bathroom.  Each are handmade and exquiste in detail.

We spent the majority of the day in the kids’ area, meeting up with other families and taking turns watching kids to go on food runs and bathroom trips.  There is a children’s music tent and a variety of activity and craft tents — staffed by the nicest, warmest people.  The kids decorated fabric squares…

…and added them to the children’s Jazz Fest quilt.

We chilled in the kids’ tent for a few hours during the heat of the day (even spread out a blanket to lay down for a bit), and saw a variety of performances (puppets, drum band from Malawi, kids’ high school dance group).  Then, a washboard performer came up and got the kids involved.  Will not only got a washboard, but was deemed “Earl of Crawfish” (or something) for the story.

He was so into the washboard that he almost missed the second line going around the tent.

After the big dance around the room, the story kept going.  Kate is up posing with Will.  She played the tin can and then traded for a parasol for the parade.

Both kids passed out on the way to James Taylor.

Our friend Georgia graciously invited us to crash in their lawn space to listen to JT.  I was too antsy to sit (back was tired and sore) — even to one of my favorite vocalists.  So we took in a few songs and moved on.

In moving on, we caught part of Erykah Badu (sans Elmo) and Wilco.  We headed out about a half-hour before the official end of Jazz Fest and had no problems with traffic or crowds… successfully spending the entire day at Jazz Fest with the kids.  Wow.

But next time, we’re totally going solo.

Family Life in NOLA

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Potty and other details.

According to all those guides of readiness, Kate has been ready to potty train for a few years.  Unfortunately, she is not on board with that assessment.

Which means that any attempt (as seen below) is only a flirtation with disaster.

MY REFRAIN: I will not force the issue.  She will do it on her own.

THE PART THAT MAKES THIS CHOICE OKAY: If you don’t force it, it will be easy when it happens.

ALSO: Go out and buy a ton of diapers.  That will ensure she potty trains as quickly as possible.

In other news, it’s Gwen‘s birthday!  She’s 21 in hex, too.  And I can prove it.  See this picture of us, taken last week?  Young vixens.


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Monday Night: Impromptu Mama Night!

We were in the neighborhood, so we stopped by Emmy’s yesterday afternoon.  Emmy was exhausted, as was I, but we both seemed a little recovered by company and the sight of each other’s kids.  We scheduled for an late afternoon rendezvous back at her place.

Joined by friend Georgia and three large frozen adult beverages, we took over their neighborhood.  Six kids (Emmy’s three, my two and Georgia’s one) to three Mamas, supported by slow-sips and conversation.  They picked kumquats (my kids thought they were funny-tasting tomatoes, aye), swung on tree swings, and played in wooden forts.  No one was stung by a caterpillar or eaten by red ants.

By the time we came up for air, it was 6:30.  Monday is movie night, right?

Monday Movie was Madagascar.

It came with pizza.

It also comes with plenty of MOVE IT MOVE IT.

Which meant that Will could put his moves to use.

It was exactly what I needed — maybe what we all needed?  Good friends, cold drinks, quality conversation, fun time with the kids, and mostly… a reminder to chill.

Somehow, it doesn’t seem like enough, but THANK YOU.  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.

Family Life in NOLA

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Photohunt: Hands

For more of my photohunt, go here.
For more information about photohunt and links to many more, go here.

Art & Photography

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Bellies, Poles, and Po’Boys

Paul’s buddy, Dave, was in town late last week for a conference and brought down his awesome wife, Shelley, for their First Ever Time Away from the kids. We met them for lunch at Bayona on Friday, before giving them a tour of the city and stern lecture on “The Real New Orleans” — which is so much more than what you see on COPS. Hours were spent explaining that we’re not a city filled with sex-obsessed exhibitionists, that Mardi Gras is really a family holiday, and that we spend a respectable amount of our lives both sober and responsible.

Good thing we spent all of this time drilling those important facts into them. Otherwise, Shelley may not have had the proper perspective when she agreed to accompany me to an event Friday night while The Boys went out for po’boys and beer. It was a fundraiser, for women only, focused on exercise and self-improvement — all in the interest of raising money for a nonprofit preschool. The title?


Held at a yoga studio equipped with a stripper pole.

In other words, it was a totally and completely appropriate way to cap off what Paul and I had been yammering on about all day.

The class was taught by a board member who happens to be (in addition to having a MA in childhood education) a professional belly dancer. She taught us specific belly-dancing moves most pertinent for, ahem, private moments, punctuated by descriptive words like “all fours,” “oral,” “shlong,” and (our personal favorite) “Love Tunnel.” (No, really, it deserves to be a Proper Noun.) In addition to Shelley, my favorite local Moms were there for the bonding experience. Appropriate amounts of wine, delicious food (donated by Slice), and Italian chocolates and gelato (donated by La Divina) were also in attendance.

The class itself involved a mix of yoga, stretching, isolations, undulations, and shimmys… with explanation, tips, demonstration, and use of scarves. The move with the best name went to “The Umm-mee” which is a small rotation of the hips (knees not bending) in a box. The move with the best bang for the buck, so to speak, was “The Camel;” I’m pretty sure that the spouses of any of the women attending would pay good money for a thorough explanation of The Camel (we’re not talking). Roughly half of us attempted the stripper pole; the rest of us were quick to claim those with the most impressive pole-action as dates for the upcoming Indigo Girls concert.

I think that we are all agreed on one thing: belly dance is pretty cool, waaaaaay harder than it looks, and no one is sexier than a belly dancer. No. One.

Photos are being held for my own protection. Except for this one.

Paul and Dave picked us up at the end of class, greeting us at the studio door with blushes and smiles. As we got into the car, we mentioned that the classroom held a stripper pole, to which Paul exclaimed, “Why didn’t you tell me? I would have gone inside and tried it, because I CAN TOTALLY WORK A STRIPPER POLE.”

As the wife, I didn’t know what to do with that… at first. Now, I have plans to put all that home improvement hotness to work. I’m booking Paul into clubs in the Quarter. I’m guessing that tool belt can hold a lot of dollar bills….

Family Life in NOLA
Life in New Orleans
Mi Familia

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