Happy Mardi Gras!

Today is Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday!!! I can’t be in New Orleans (or Carnaval in Brazil or Carnival in Venice), so I am sending happy and revelatory thoughts to my family and friends in NOLA.  Here I am sharing some pics from my New Orleans visit in 2008, my one and only Mardi Gras experience so far.  Please note that there will be a lot of links in this post!

My sister, brother-in-law, and nephew had just moved to Louisiana for a year abroad in New Orleans. This is their street in the Bywater neighborhood, part of the Ninth Ward. They lived in the single shotgun house on the far right.

My brother Colin, Rusty, and myself descended upon them just about one month after they left New York.  My nephew Caleb looks so little and cute here!

After a meal of oyster po boys, boudin balls, and sweet potato fries we headed over to Fifi Mahony’s to get a wig for Amanda.

Here’s Amanda trying on a pink wig.  They have an awesome selection of ready-to-wear or custom options available.  If you’re ever in the market for a wig I highly recommend them.

The first parade that we saw was Muses on the Friday night.  Muses is the only all female parade.  You can read about them here.  She marched with a group called the Pussyfooters.  Of course they were in motion and it was dark, but you can make her out in the back left corner of the frame.  Here’s a shot of Colin helping her get ready.

On the Saturday we headed over to mid-city to a house party where we ate red beans and rice, among other things, and learned about the effects of Katrina firsthand.

As the sun set we walked a few blocks over to watch the Endymion parade. This was the first year that Endymion had returned to the neighborhood since Katrina.

Gabe and Caleb enjoying the parade.

Amanda and Rusty got into some kind of bead catching competition.  It’s hard to tell who has more.

On the Sunday, we headed uptown to see the Toth parade.

Where I showed Caleb how to turn his stroller into a Mardi Gras float and Rusty got more beads.

Later that day Gabe marched with the Noisician Coalition, a band where the members make their own instruments.  Keep in mind that we did all this before Mardi Gras day even started, plus all the things that happened in between the pictures like eating more, drinking, going to shows, shopping in the Quarter for masks, or at Trashy Diva (where I got this dress).

Finally! Mardi Gras Day!!!  We had our king cake for breakfast, donned our costumes, and headed to the R Bar at 8:30 a.m. for a day of debauchery and revelry.

Whew!  What a day and what a week!  You truly need a detox week after Mardi Gras, and although most people associate it with partying (and it is a party) it’s also about community (with multiple parades in multiple neighborhoods), and creativity (you can get some idea from the pictures), and history (since 1699), and … part of the liturgical calendar.  I recommend the next time you visit NOLA that you add the Presbytere, part of the Louisiana State Museum, to your list of things to do.  They have an awesome permanent collection on the history of Mardi Gras, from the inception of the parades and balls to the state-wide celebration it is today.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!!!!!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’m wishing everyone a very happy Valentine’s Day!!!  I know a lot of people dread Valentine’s Day because of the pressure of creating the most romantic night ever and not being able to get into the restaurant that you want or the reminder of being alone or just the feeling that it’s more about Hallmark than any true sentiment, but I love it!  To me it’s not about those things, it’s about getting crafty and hearts and pink.  What’s not to love about that?!

Picture from Martha Stewart

I love picking out colored paper and gluing paper heart doilies or adding stickers, and lately I have been really been getting addicted to Japanese Washi tape.  Like in the picture above, sitting down with friends and making cards is a great way to get inspired by others and to just spend time together.  I get nostalgic for being a kid and making Valentine’s for my classmates and decorating a shoe box to collect all the Valentine’s from my classmates.  I remember I used to deliberate as I picked (from a store bought pack) the card that I thought was the best to go in the card box of whatever boy I had a crush on that year.

Plus, who doesn’t love collecting the mail and finding something other than a bill or junk mail?!  Here’s a cute video from etsy where a very intricate message is being cut from paper (expand to full screen to get the full effect).

Lots of hugs and kisses to you on this Valentine’s Day!!! xoxo …

A Valentine Tree

Every year at Christmas time I look forward to getting a tree and decorating it.  I have been collecting ornaments since college and at this point have amassed quite a few!  For some reason I couldn’t get into the spirit of it this year and because of my tight budget I thought I’d skip a tree altogether.  But that bummed me out because I wanted to have a little holiday cheer, so I decided I’d just put up a few decorations.  Then it hit me, I have several birds and a few nests which I could use to make a bird tree!  So I went to Michael’s and purchased an inexpensive tall vase and some rocks.  Then I walked over to my local park and collected tree branches.

You can see the vase, rocks, and branches above.  Next I placed the rocks in the vase, cleaned the dead leaves off the branches and placed them into the vase.  Voila!  I had a tree ready to be decorated.  You can see the finished tree here.

I really enjoyed my little tree, and couldn’t bear to take it down at the end of the holiday.  It made me happy every time that I walked through the door.  Then I got inspired again!  I  had bought these heart ornaments on sale at IKEA, and they would be perfect to make a Valentine tree.  So that’s what I did!  It may seem silly, but it still makes me smile every time I walk through the door.  Little things can make a big difference.

Going Back to School

FIT, Midtown Garment District, NYC.

Last year I found myself out of work, and took the opportunity to evaluate my life and to think about what it is that would make me feel more fulfilled.  For the longest time I have had an interest in interior design, but was always unsure about my ability to do it.  I realized that I’m not getting any younger and there’s no time like the present, so I have started the steps to go in that direction.  My first step was to take a Fine Art drawing course at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Here are some of my drawings …

Planar Study

This is a graphite value drawing.

This is a graphite line drawing.  We also did drawings in charcoal and ink, learning about line, composition, positive/negative space, and shading in each medium.  I definitely wasn’t the best in the class, in fact I was probably the worst.  This was really hard for me because I’m used to being good at what I do, so I had to keep reminding myself that I am just beginning and that the more you practice the better you get.  Must keep breathing and stop judging myself.

Drafting supplies list. Oy!Last week was the first day of the spring semester, and I am taking a drafting class.  You can see my supply list above.  I think it’s going to be a really great class, but also extremely challenging.  Our instructor (who works here) came off as somewhat of a drill sergeant and kept talking about how much work there is and that half the class will drop out by the middle of the semester.  I guess he’s throwing down the gauntlet!  I’m going to pick it up, whatever the outcome.  Watch for more as the semester progresses.