How we roll.

How does a New Orleans family do it?  All the parades, all the loot, all the accessories… we must tote the costumed kids, the ladders, the stools, the coolers and the snacks…?

This is how we do it.

(By the way, yesterday, Kate was a cowgirl and Will was Peter Pan.)

I’m sure others have done the kid-riding-on-the-ladder thing, but we still get stares.  Mostly, it’s parents looking at us going, ‘why didn’t we think of that?!’

Paul admits that this would be hard to do if he’d been drinking all afternoon.

(Side note: The costumes today were Mardi Gras Butterfly and Superman.)

Oh, and Will’s new thing?  To correct the way we say “Mardi Gras” to the French pronunciation.  Basically, it’s just like how we say it now, but with the added inflection you’d give it if you were trying to dislodge something stuck in the back of your throat.  It’s what makes all things in French sound so pretty.

Aren’t I allowed just one beefcake picture? Gotta get it all out of my system before Lent, you know!

While Paul does the heavy lifting, I follow with cooler, accessories, and loot bags.  Randomly stopping to photograph festivities along the walk…

It’s Mardi Gras time!

Art & Photography
Family Life in NOLA

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Let the frenzy begin!

We kicked off Mardi Gras this afternoon with our first parade of the season: Krewe of Pontchartrain!

The kids costume-d up a bit.

I’m sorry.  I should have warned you of the cuteness.  It’s almost too much.

Consider yourself warned.

Had enough yet?

Just one more.  ’cause it’s all about the boots.

Kate refuses to sit in the ladder.  I vaguely remember Will pulling a similar stunt when he was her age… a certain incident involving him freaking out and jumping head first into the crowd below deciding to climb off of the ladder in the middle of a night parade and aging me 10 years in 2 short seconds.  Thankfully, we thought ahead this year, and invested in a step stool.  It rocks.

Here’s the King, poor guy.  He completely won my heart.  Who cares if I lose the ‘stache in the first two blocks of the 2 mile parade?  I AM WAVING, Dammit!

One of the first marching bands was here from Anapolis — the boat school kids — representing the U.S. Naval Academy.  (My Dad is also a boat school alum.)

They ALL had these looks of disappointment on their faces.  Look at the kid with the camera.  I think he was expecting a lot more boobies.  Sorry, Charlie.

Uh, well, maybe not Charlie.

You know what I mean.

Eventually, the riding floats came along, each with a “name that love song” theme.

Lots of red beads today.  With it being Valentine’s and all.

Hey, that’s Ben!  Whoo-hoo for Panorama Jazz Band!

The song for the float below is “I Just Called to Say I Love You.”  I totally rocked the Song-Naming Game.

It wouldn’t be a Mardi Gras parade without kids playing ball.  Whoa, Dad.  That’s a little long, doncha think?  No more Turbo Dog for you.

Kate is practicing her “Hey Mister” line.

If you’re new to this whole Mardi Gras thing, you may be asking: how does this throw thing work, anyway?  Well, first, a rider see you.

Like this.

You give him a look, or thumbs up, to show that you are ready.  Even if you’re holding a camera.

Uh-ho!  Here it comes!  Get ready to catch…


For the record, I caught it.  The only one I missed this afternoon, Paul caught over my hand.  Let’s hope that keeps up a bit more this season.  (Knock on wood.)

Just in case this whole Mardi Gras thing doesn’t look fun enough yet, I give you PINK SLIP.  I particularly like how they are singing for us in front of the prayer sign.  This is a pre-lenten festival, after all.

Happy Mardi Gras, y’all!

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Family Life in NOLA

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In the lead.

Haydel’s is the current King Cake Champion in this house.

At least, until we’ve tried a MacKenzie’s.  Must not leave a stone unturned!

Oh, and Haydel’s?  They put the baby IN the cake, the way nature intended.

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Did you find the baby?

My children will one day describe the torture we inflicted upon them during Carnival season by waiting nearly a month to buy a king cake.  But we did it, officially: we have had our first King Cake. In our defense, we tried to buy one a day or two earlier, but Whole Foods had nothing but “Berry Chantilly” left and that just wasn’t happening.

On recommendation, we got one from Rouse’s.

The baby is thrown in the center these days, which is a shame, but there you have it.  Will wanted the baby something terrible, even before we opened the box.  He has been asking for King Cake since they made one in school… on Epiphany.  Poor guy waited a long time.

I’m a bit of a local oddity in that I don’t have a favorite King Cake.  Yet.  I do know that I’m not into the fruit fillings.  Last year, I stood in line for a Randazzo’s cake and it was good, but a bit too cinnamon roll sweet for me.  Rouse’s was good, but I think I’d opt for cream cheese next time as the plain seemed like something was missing?  We are open for suggestions on who to try next.

Will is especially ready for more.

Family Life in NOLA

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Mardi Gras 2008: The Review, Friday Megaparade Night

Friday evening, we headed out into the fray early (or so we thought)… and were on the neutral ground by 4:45. Apparently, every person with a ladder within a 300 mile radius had been there sooner and set up their ladders supplied with taser devices to ensure on one infringe upon the PUBLIC space surrounding their ladder by several feet. Some even set up huge caution tape lines. One of the best parts about Mardi Gras is the camaraderie in the lines; folks sharing food, throws, and jokes.
Luckily, Ana spotted us crawling up and down Napoleon and we joined her and their friends, who had the good sense to bring several chairs. Ana (above) settled into our ladder seat with Will. After a few minutes, though, Will flipped out over being up in the ladder (as would be a theme for the rest of the holiday). His spirit was bolstered, however, when he discovered the delights of Doritos in a bag shared by Emmy. It was love at first sight; Will hasn’t quite been the same since.

In the meantime, as dusk settled in, I went to town trying out different techniques to capture the floats as the riders took their places, prepped their throws, and night began to fall. Normally, this would be a flash situation: I increased shutter speed, increased ISO, and played around with exposure to get these shots.
In my opinion, Hermes has the most beautiful floats. The parade “starts” a few blocks from where we were, so we sat at in the staging area of the parade. It was a great place to start the night. Watching them slowly light up as the sun set was almost magical.

(Note: see the caution tape below? For some reason, this seemed endemic this Mardi Gras. What is up, people?)

Ana stayed up on high (that girl is afraid of NOTHING) and chatted to me while I snapped away.
She even offered me a few of her wake-me-up-with-a-bang! flavored Zapp’s chips. That’s Ana, keeping the NOLA Mardi Gras spirit alive!

Hermes was the only parade we saw. At the start of D’Etat (always one of our favorites), it became clear that Kate *had a diaper*. It could not be fixed… the girl was a mess from head to toe. Will was still being freaked out by everything (the flambeau, usually a favorite, was freaking him out, too), and it was getting colder and later. We went home. It had been a big day. It was a good idea; we were much better positioned for Saturday. (Except for Kate, who we realized was unequivocally ill.) Will and I were the only ones to attend parades on Saturday.

Family Life in NOLA

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Mardi Gras 2008: The Review, Part 1

Friday morning, Oak Street.
About our costumes. We’re Mardi Gras Superheros: Will is Captain Mardi Gras, Kate is the faithful sidekick Lagniappe, and Paul and I are The Beignet Bunch. The idea came from Will’s obsession with Superheros and a purple cape he made at school.
We’re wearing about 8 layers of clothes each (it was a chilly morning) but the top layer is a purple t-shirt… which was incredibly difficult to find. I ordered from an online t-shirt place; working to find sizes in kids to adults that was going to be the same color was impossible. When the order came, half of the stuff was delayed and we ended up being some in long sleeves (Paul) and some in short. Paul and I are wearing scrubs for bottoms. Will is wearing purple tights from a girls Hello Kitty pajama set I found on sale in some megastore. Kate is wearing a purple glittery jumper that came from Clare. The capes were made by a crafter on Etsy who I highly recommend to any and all; the capes are fantastic (more pics of them to follow) and she was wonderful to work with. I made the embelms with sticky sided felt, glittery felt, and hot glue. Paul spray painted rubber boots with metallic gold spray paint. I was going to make golden shorts for Will but gave up after 30 minutes of hand sewing got really old and talked Paul into spray painting a pair of Will’s underwear. It worked perfectly. Paul’s Helmet came from and arrived the day after we ordered it. Will’s King Hat came from Jefferson Variety, a local hole-in-the-wall supplier of all the fancy fabric and trim for your Mardi Gras costuming needs.

View of the full regala… with Paul and I wearing Abeona’s signature throw: the Golden NuNu.
Kate, getting ready for her ride. She was pretty subdue for the morning.
Emmy lead the way as “Queen of the Boil” (complete with cajun spice and tiny crawfish in her big net skirt). Ana and Will eagerly dolled out loot to watchers. Fun moment: hearing people call out: “Throw me somethin’ Mister!” to them as they went by.
Our band: Panorama Jazz Band! TWELVE musicians! They were absolutely fabulous. It was a great!
There were concerns of how pulling the float would impact it’s delicate construction (and who could drill holes in that beautiful paint job?) — so Paul pushed it. We forgot to make a float sign to go in the front. Something to add for next year’s royalty!
The parade crossing Carrollton.
Back in front of the school… superheros compare their get-ups.
Will and Ana hold hands and smile… preparing for their entrance and Mardi Gras toast!
Entrance of the King and Queen. Notice Will’s face… he didn’t quite have Ana’s sense of drama in this moment. (She waved and walked demurely to her seat.)
Toasting! After watching the Mayor toast the King and Queen of Zulu this morning, I much preferred the sincerity of this toasting.
The Little Man!

Family Life in NOLA
Life in New Orleans
Special Family Moments

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Mardi Gras Update: 1 Day ’til Mardi Gras Day

— The stomach flu hit this weekend. Kate was implicated, having thrown up for a few hours late Wednesday night (she was pretty cool about it… she’d retch in the sink, hold her hand out to run her pacifier under the water, and pop it back in her mouth.) No fever or other symptoms, so we went to school on Thursday and attended the parade on Friday. Friday she started showing signs of feeling unwell (i.e.: she demanded to be held, versus the usual, when she acts like she is being boiled in hot oil when someone tries to hold her). By Saturday, she was warm and even more cuddly. Many many many diaper explosions. My parents came into town Friday for the parade and ended up staying through Sunday morning, because my Mom came down with
something similar Saturday afternoon which kept her violently ill all night. The real fun was that no-one-exists-in-the-world-but-me neighbor partied hearty for most of the night… 6 feet from where my Mom was trying to recover. We are pretty much at wit’s end here, as I am pretty sure the stress from his consistent noise violations is going to give us both ulcers. Fun times.

— But we still have managed good fun. Friday’s parade was awesome, as was the ball (more on that, later.) Saturday, Paul and my Dad installed the door and windows in the back. It is officially closed to the elements. We can walk through the house to the backyard — something we haven’t been able to do in a long, long time. Mom watched cuddly Kate inside while I took Will to a friend’s house for an Iris/Tucks Mardi Gras party and saw parts of both parades. Will was an absolute delight: polite, sharing throws with other kids, so sweetly waving and following “Throw me somethin’ Mister” with “please.”

— Thoth was great. We hosted the parade party/provided the close potty for friends and watched the parade en masse.

— We didn’t attend parades today. Paul worked and I played with the kids (think: long paper art project), took 3 walks, went out to stand in line for our first Randazzo’s king cake (my opinion: good, but a big cinnamon roll, too sweet for me), and stopped by Emmy’s for an impromptu playdate with Ana and Elliot.

— And now, I’m fighting off flu. Typical symptoms. We have a 50% attendance rate going for Fat Tuesday parades and I think that this percentage is going to go down a bit after this year. Which is more than fine here. I’m hoping for a great family day and to feel well enough for some great red beans and rice.

Family Life in NOLA
Home and Renovation

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Say HEH-EY! It’s a beautiful day!

It’ll take hours for my 7-year old computer to eat up all the pictures from the first 2GB card I filled this morning, so here’s a preview from the second set already loaded. King Will (as Captain Mardi Gras) and Queen Ana (Glinda, the Good Witch) toast the start of the Krewe of Abeona Ball, which followed the fantastic morning parade down Oak Street.
It’s a beautiful day in New Orleans — and we’re gearing up for an awesome night (FOUR parades… including the bubbly delights of Muses, which got postponed ’til tonight due to yesterday’s storms.) Four more days of nonstop fun and excitement await here!! We only hope our energy can get us through it!

Family Life in NOLA

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It’s official: we’re Mardi Gras fantantics.

Paul is making a float for Friday’s Krewe of Abeona parade. He used scrap wood we had in the back from the renovation/addition. Wheels came from the hardware store, although Paul isn’t quite happy with them and designed it so that upgrades may be made in the future. While it is made currently to push, he’s going to attach ropes to the front if folks want to pull it instead. (It works sort of like a shopping cart when pushed from the back and is actually pretty agile, all things considered.)

A few key pieces were supplemented from wood we use to cover the front door transoms when we evacuate during Hurricane season. He figured there was something… appropriate… about using Hurricane protection materials for a Mardi Gras float.

Here it is, before trim.

While he finished trim, I primed the top of our ladder. No idea what we’re going to do with this, decor-wise, but I thought it needed paint nonetheless.

Then we worked together to prime the float before going to pick up the kids. (How could we not knock off a few minutes early to enjoy the gorgeous weather? Not that everyday hasn’t been like this lately!)

After dinner, while I got Kate ready for bed, Will and Paul put on the first coat of purple paint.
It’s now almost 11pm. Paul just left to go to the out building to put the second coat of paint on the float. We’re trying to get the big coats of paint on and done so that they have plenty of time to dry and we have plenty of time for blinging out the rest of the contraption!! We should have stocked up on battery powered lights after Christmas…!

The things we do for our kids.

Family Life in NOLA

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Carnival Week 2007: Saturday

Aside from a few little outings, Saturday was all about the Endymion Extravaganza.

My Dad received a gracious invitation to the event through a work colleague who is a member of the Krewe of Endymion. To our luck, the host extended the invitation to include Paul and I. Tickets to this event are few, sold early, and quite pricey. In addition, our tickets were not actually for the general event, but were for space on a private, catered veranda overlooking the Superdome floor. What an invitation!! Our friends and visitors for the week, Matt and Laura, agreed to watch the kids (on their vacation!) otherwise, we would not have been able to go. (Thanks, again!!!)

We’ve heard two numbers for attendance at the Extravaganza: 12,000 and 14,000. In other words, a lot of people! Getting there — in the middle of parade crowds on one of the biggest parade days of the season — was tricky. We left between parades and had to drive all the way around the Quarter and enter from the East in order to get to the Canal Place, the one place we were told we could find parking. Then we met my parents in their hotel room, finished getting ready, and rushed out into the cold night to catch our bus to the Superdome.

Thank goodness my parents brought a coat (an off-white boxy number once worn by Grandma Betty) otherwise, I may have frozen in line. And what a line! At least 10,000 people were gathered from all angles waiting to enter the Superdome — all in formal wear, many carrying trays of food or king cakes and trailing coolers. Each guest was checked at arrival: for tickets, attire (women in dress pants are turned away!!!), and gear (we saw a guest told that he could not bring his cooler in to the event because it was Styrofoam!?)

The Superdome itself is an impressive arena. It was the first time I’d been inside. It is also the first and only time I’ve ever wondered if I was inside the Spaceship from the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The Dome is a huge ring of lights that exactly mimics the movie. (I was shocked that we got through the night without my Dad humming those 5 notes.) The verandas were tremendous sections of scaffolding built over the Superdome’s seats going down the sides of the arena. Huge black cloths hid the seats from view and a series of stairs connected verandas at different levels. We were on the veranda closest to the floor and had a wonderful view over the room. The enormity of it all was hard to take in. We kept having to remind ourselves that there was a football field under all of it.

We had just enough time to eat and explore before the parade began to arrive. The Endymion parade leads to the Superdome, winds through it, and then ends so that the riders can depart and get the party officially started. The floats used to circle the interior edges of the ‘dome, meaning that those in the verandas had the premiere spot to catch throws. This was stopped last year, after someone was killed after falling off a chair and onto the floor below. Now the floats circle through the interior of the huge floor. As the parade neared, crowds gathered at the metal fencing used to create the enormous thoroughfare.

Paul and I spent the beginning of the parade on the floor in the huge crowd. I stood on a chair (fatiguing) and took photographs. When throws came our way, I ducked — they were terrifying!! Not the gentle, tossed with eye-contact throws in Uptown. After the event, we noticed that the backs of our tickets held detailed disclaimers about any number of horrifying injuries that could befall us at this party — and from those warnings, I think I was smart to duck. After awhile, we joined my parents on the veranda. Paul went back down to try and catch light-up throws for Will and I joined him for the last 5 minutes or so of the parade… and in that 5 minutes, we caught enough to fill a box. People leave this event with more throws than we have collected in an entire Mardi Gras season! The riders, known for throwing more than any other Krewe, unload all their remaining loot at the Extravaganza… watching the amount of stuff being hurled from these gigantic, flashing, beautiful, floats is truly an incredible sight. With the lights, live music, people, fireworks (yes, fireworks!), and unbelievable energy, extravaganza is honestly the best word to describe the experience. The pictures below do a better job of telling the visual story… what an awesome sensory overload!

Here we are at the hotel, waiting for our bus:
The crowd arriving… a football field is under all of that!
Looking out into the crowd (towards the stage) as we wait for the parade to arrive:
Stilt walkers were included as ushers for the parade — the one on the far left is the son of friends of ours. He had also walked the 6 mile parade loop two nights before on stilts. Last year, he did the same route for several Krewes riding a 6 foot unicycle. (Seriously talented guy!) We didn’t know he would be in Endymion so it was a cool surprise!
Tailor Hicks was this year’s Grand Marshall. We missed his stage performance, as we left on the 12:30am shuttle to get back to the kids. It was the longest amount of time I’ve ever been apart from Kate – about 11 hours (we were stuck in the parking garage for an hour and didn’t get home until 2!)
Journey was another headlining music performance. They played after Taylor (at around 2am) so we missed them as well.
Styx was yet another headliner. They were the last stage show at around 3am. Yup. Missed them, too.
Every Krewe has it’s maidens… these ones had pretty awesome costumes!
Crowd shot — lights, spotlights, confetti, streamers, throws, music, dancing, crowds….!! A float as seen from the floor:
Crowd detail from the floor:
My favorite party-goers from the night! This couple (whose names I never did understand) watched the entire evening of madness from their wheelchairs on the edge of the floor. The gentleman told me that he rode with Endymion for 11 years, “in the 1800s.” I gave them beads at the end of the parade.
When we finally went upstairs, my Mom told us to find Dad “in the middle of all the girls.”
Endymion boasts “the largest floats ever assembled” and they are not kidding. Those things are GIGANTIC. They are intricately beautiful in detail and almost too much to take in, with flashing multicolor lights, themed decor, and hundreds of riders. Many floats are in several parts with their own generators trailing behind them.
Seeing it up close helps to get the scale of how big the room is when the floats are further away… errr… downfield?Here you can see one float way behind another. The scale is quite hard to describe.
A sense of the incredible length of the floats.
The crowd in front of the stage. See all those arms up? The riders actually get throws that far! Orthopedics must get a ton of business from Endymion Krewe members this time of year. The title float, Endymion’s Endangered and Extinct Species. Themed floats included the Polar Bear, Dinosaurs, Whooping Crane, and others. This title float sat on the outer rim of the Superdome after it wound around the crowd as a beautifully lit backdrop.
Title float in the distance with video view above. Each of those streamers were wider than I am tall.
Multiple floats near and far.
Catching junk… the American way…?
Beautifully detailed floats…
See the float lit up in the background?
The lights on the floats and the spotlights in the room changed color constantly. It was a different sight at each second.
Can you spot Paul in the picture below?
More float detail…
And more flag!
In addition to the live bands playing on stage, bands were also on many floats. Plus, the standard marching bands within the parade itself. Many layers of music floating around as the parade went by and wound through.
Colors, lights, sounds…
Crowd view.
After the parade… party-goers have loot everywhere. Folks start to pack up and get ready to enjoy the rest of the night. Krewe members join their family and friends as the main musical acts get ready to take the stage. Al Green was the first major headliner — he was great. We left as he was finishing up his set.
Looking out from an upper balcony over one of the verandas. What a great view of all the action!
It was an overwhelming, incredible night — a complete extravaganza!!! We hope to go this year… (except next time, stay in a hotel downtown and arrange for all night babysitting!!) We are so thankful to have had the opportunity to go and had an incredible time!

Art & Photography
Family Life in NOLA

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