Louisiana

Holidays, Louisiana, Mardi Gras, Recipes

Easy Peasy Crescent Roll King Cake

This year I’m sharing an easy peasy crescent rolls king cake recipe.

When it was time to make a king cake this year, I couldn’t find Pillsbury Dough Sheets, so this was an opportunity to figure out how to make a king cake with crescent rolls. The stores said they had the inventory, but not enough employees to keep the shelves stocked. YIKES. It takes a little more skill, but it’s still easy peasy!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
  • cinnamon sugar mix: ½ c. granulated sugar + 2 tbsp cinnamon 
  • plastic king cake baby (to hide inside, of course!)
  • purple, green, & gold sugar sprinkles
  • 1 can Pillsbury Cream Cheese Icing or make your own

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 °F (190 °C).
  2. Grease a pizza pan or cover with parchment paper. (Easily transfers to a serving dish using parchment paper.)
  3. Mix the cinnamon and sugar.
  4. Unroll one can of crescent rolls and separate into 8 triangles. Arrange the triangles, slightly overlapping all sides into a half circle with tips pointed toward the center.

5. Finish the circle by laying the triangles from the second can.

6. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mix around the middle of the dough.

7. Pull the narrow part of the triangle from the center toward the widest part.

8. Pull the widest part of the triangle from the end toward the center.

9. Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown.

  10. While the cake is in the oven, read THE KING CAKE BABY. Don’t let your baby run away!

Decorate the King Cake

1. Soften ½ can of Pillsbury Cream Cheese icing or make a cream cheese icing using the recipe below.

Cream cheese icing:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 4oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract  
  • 3 tablespoons milk

2. Hide one plastic king cake baby in the cake’s underside.

3. While the cake is still warm, pour icing on top.

4. Top with sugar sprinkles, alternating purple, green colors.

5. Before eating, check your piece to see if you got the baby!

And check out my post on how to host an Easy Peasy King Cake Party with pictures.

Bon appétit!

History, Holidays, Louisiana

12 Days of Christmas

Did you know? Today is the first day of Christmas! The 12 Days of Christmas starts today and ends January 5th.

Many of us know the 12 Days of Christmas song. We know it’s about someone getting lots of gifts, especially birds, from their true love. A wee research led me to a number of ideas about its origin. I found reference to an early written version from 1780 published as a children’s “memory and forfeits” game, much like ‘I went to the market and bought’ game where players are tasked with remembering and repeating what was said before their turn. Others hypothesize it’s an English Christmas carol, a French folk song from 1770, and even a ‘code’ persecuted English Catholics used to practice their faith back in the 16th-17th centuries. A century later, it was described as a game played at a Twelfth-night celebration.

Fast forward to the 19th-20th centuries and the parodies ensued. Watch this family of 12 sing their own version called “Creative 12 Days of Christmas” because it’s hilarious!

https://youtu.be/0L3cdVB3H3I

Although opinions vary about the origin or meaning behind the song, today it’s rooted in both secular and Christian Christmas traditions. And it’s so much fun to sing! Whether the song is enjoyed for a secular or religious reason, we can extend the spirit of the season 12 more days, not only through gift giving but also through acts of kindness. 

And on January 6th, also known as Twelfth Night, Le Petit Noël, Little Christmas, Feast of the Epiphany, or Three Kings’ Day, the celebration continues! More about that later.

I hope you’ll join me!

 

Louisiana, Recipes

Creole Louisiana Mirliton Recipe

Happy fall, y’all!

Today’s post comes with a family recipe for one of my childhood favorite foods. But, we need to dig into some world history first!

What does Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean have to do with my Creole Louisiana Mirlton recipe? Read on…

Mirliton, [MEL-ee-tawn], [MER-lee-tawn], or [MEEL-ee-tawn] in Louisiana, [MEER-lee-tawn] in French, is a south Louisiana staple. The squash, called chayote [chah·YOH·teh] in Spanish, is native to Mesoamerica. This old world plant has documented roots in Louisiana dated in the mid-1800s. However, evidence suggests it reached the Louisiana colony much earlier. In one theory, the plant came to the port city of New Orleans, while a Spanish colony, via other Spanish colonies in Latin America. Another explanation is that it came with colonizers (including gens de couleur libres) and the people they enslaved that fled to New Orleans from Saint-Domingue and Cuba from 1791 to 1815, during and following the slave rebellion that created the Republic of Haiti in 1804. The evidence supporting this latter theory is the fact that there are two places that use the word “mirliton” for this squash—Louisiana and the former French colony renamed Haiti after the revolution. In English, Anglo-Americans call this squash a “vegetable pear” because of its shape. So was the staple called chayote brought to colonial Louisiana during the Spanish period? If so, did the influx of roughly 15,000 French-speakers from Saint-Domingue and Cuba that arrived in New Orleans influence using the French name for the squash? Or was it brought to Louisiana by Saint-Dominguans?

Food history is so fascinating!

This squash is technically a fruit and grows on a vine in warm climates. I remember mirliton growing in my grandmother’s backyard in New Orleans. The plant grew all over the city before Hurricane Katrina decimated the plant. As part of hurricane recovery, a nonprofit organization dedicated itself to the revival and conservation of the Louisiana mirliton.

Чайот.JPG” by SKas is licensed with CC BY-SA 4.0

Below is the recipe passed on to me that I will pass on to my children.

Louisiana Creole Mirliton Recipe

Ingredients and prep:

  • 6-8 medium mirlitons
  • 2 pounds gulf shrimp
  • 1 pound white lump crab meat
  • 1 pound cooked ham, cubed
  • 1 medium bell peppers, diced
  • 1 medium onions, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ cup parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stick butter
  • Louisiana Creole seasoning
    • ½ tsp cayenne
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • ½ tsp dried oregano
    • ½ tsp dried thyme
    • 1 tbsp dried garlic powder
    • ½ tsp black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • ½ tsp onion powder
  • cayenne pepper  to taste
  • Italian bread crumbs

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (176 °C).
  2. Boil whole mirlitons in salted water until tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from water and set aside to cool.
  3. While the mirlitons cool, sauté onion, celery, and bell pepper in butter until soft, about 5 minutes. Add ham, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves. Cook another 20 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle shrimp with Louisiana Creole seasoning. Set aside.
  5. Cut cooled mirlitons in half and remove the seeds and pods. Scoop out the mirliton flesh and place into a colander. Lightly squeeze out excess moisture. TIP: If you want to stuff the shells instead of making a casserole, score on the sides before scooping to leave a little flesh on the sides. The skin tears easily.
  6. Add drained mirlitons to Dutch oven. Add cayenne. TIP: If there’s a lot of water, add a tablespoon of breadcrumbs to thicken or cook on medium-low heat, uncovered, until most of the liquid evaporates.
  7. Add seasoned shrimp. Cook about 20 minutes.
  8. Fold in crabmeat and parsley. Put mixture in mirliton shells.
  9. Top with bread crumbs. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until bread crumbs turn brown.
  10. Serve with Louisiana French Bread or French baguette.

Bon appétit!

OPTION: Make as a casserole.

Author visits, Louisiana, Mardi Gras, Picture books, School Visits

Kings’ Day School Visit

It was a pleasure to have Keila V. Dawson speak to my Kindergarten class about her book The King Cake Baby! She really connected with my kids and had them saying words in French by the end of her visit.  She inspired us to write our own class book!” Elizabeth Gates, Kindergarten teacher, Rothenberg Academy, Cincinnati Public Schools.

On January 6th, the first day of Carnival, I had the pleasure of virtually visiting with Kindergarten students at Rothenberg Academy in Cincinnati. We compared Cincinnati to New Orleans and talked about things that are the same and different. Ok, mostly we talked about food!

And I read THE KING CAKE BABY. So happy to have inspired them to write their own stories, and I can’t wait to read them!

History, Holidays, Louisiana, Mardi Gras

Why is there a baby in a King Cake?

Ever wonder why there’s a baby in a King Cake? Or how the tradition of eating King Cake during the Carnival season came about? Read my guest post over at Alphabet Soup to find the answers.

Comment and enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a signed copy of my picture book, THE KING CAKE BABY!

Happy Mardi Gras!

Louisiana, Mardi Gras, Recipes

Easy Peasy King Cake Party!

If you want to host an Easy Peasy King Cake Party for Carnival…

See my earlier post for the recipe.

Who’d like to help?

You’ll need three Pillsbury Crescent Dough Sheets.

Roll out each dough sheet into a rectangle

Mix cinnamon and sugar for the filling and divide among each dough sheet.

Gently roll each from the shortest side of the rectangle.

I can do it myself!

Connect here, here, and here to create an oval shape.

And place the cake into the oven to bake.

Whoever finds the baby will need a crown! The origami crown was easy peasy for the 10-year-old but a challenge for the younger kids. But I had a plan B!

Make a paper plate crown. Here’s a video. Easy peasy!

Don’t forget the baby!

Soften the icing while the cake cools…

Soften the icing while the cake cools…

…so it spreads easily.

…so it spreads easily.

Easy peasy!

See! I can do it all by myself!

Let it flow! Let it flow!

Allow the icing to pour over the sides of the cake. YUM!

Add the sugar sprinkles in a pattern- purple, green, and gold.

I picked purple. I’m first!

What’s next?

Then…

My turn!

And one more round of sprinkles.

There’s more than one way to get the job done.

Easy peasy!

Voilà. It’s a king cake!

Let’s eat!

Time to cut the cake.

Check your piece for the baby before you eat.

I didn’t get the baby.

Who got the baby?

All hail to the Queen!

What an easy peasy and fun king cake party!

Find the recipe here.

Why is there a baby in a king cake? How did the tradition of eating king cake during the Carnival season come about? Read my guest post over at Alphabet Soup to find the answers.

HAPPY MARDI GRAS!

Louisiana, Mardi Gras

King Cake Baby Needlepoint

At my annual physical with my doctor we had this conversation:

DOC: How’s the book biz?

ME: Busy with an upcoming release.

DOC: Oh good, I bought your last book. My son lives in Manhattan and needlepoints in Central Park. He made a King Cake. Look, he added the baby! 💜💚💛👑😍⚜️🎭

How cool is that! KCB in NYC.

Holidays, Louisiana, Mardi Gras

King Cake Season is here!

On the first day of Carnival, I cut the first piece of our first King Cake and I got the baby!  It’s Day 2 of Carnival and I ordered my second King Cake! It’s just too tempting with all the varieties, favorites, and new versions. So I wrote a serenity prayer to get me through this visit!


The King Cake Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept these King Cake calories.

Courage to stop when I’ve had enough,

and the wisdom to choose wisely.

AMEN!

Louisiana, Recipes

Recipe: Creole Louisiana Smothered Cabbage Recipe

I am often asked for my recipes after posting pictures. Here’s one for the cabbage I grew up eating in New Orleans. Folks in Louisiana do appreciate good food!

Bon appétit!

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Creole Louisiana Smothered Cabbage

_____________

Ingredients:

2 Tbls. olive oil

1 Tbl. butter

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 strips of bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 lb. ham, cubed

1 lb. andouille sausage or another smoked sausage, coin sliced

2-3 heads of cabbage, cored, cleaned and chopped

1 tsp. Louisiana Creole Seasoning

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • -1 teaspoon paprika
  • -1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • -1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • -1 tbl dried garlic powder
  • -1/2 tsp black pepper
  • -1/2 tsp onion powder

½ tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 cup white rice, cooked

Salt & pepper to taste

Cornbread (optional)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Instructions:

  1. Cut and clean cabbage leaves.

  2. In a 6 quart pot, fry bacon on high heat. Reduce heat to medium-high, add ham, and sausage. Cook for about 15 minutes.

  3. Add oil and onion, cook until onion is brown. Reserve the meat & onion in a bowl.

  4. Use the same pot, add a little water, reduce heat to medium. Fill the pot with cabbage and cover. Check often, stirring cabbage until the cabbage wilts, adding water as needed.

  5. Continue adding more cabbage to fill the pot. Cabbage is cooked when all leaves are wilted and some turn light brown. Add Louisiana Creole Seasoning and cayenne.

  6. Return meat to pot, add garlic and butter. Do not cover. Instead, allow remaining water in the pot to evaporate.

  7. Serve over white rice.

 

Holidays, Louisiana, Mardi Gras

Happy Almost Mardi Gras!

On this day last year I wrote a blog post about the popular song, The 12 days of Christmas.  This is the time of year to actually sing that song. The first day is today, December 25th. The twelfth day is January 5th, Little Christmas, also known as the Twelfth Night, Feast of the Epiphany, Women’s Day, Three Kings’ Day and or Kings’ Day.

During this time of year of course you’ll hear Merry Christmas, Happy Hanakkah, or Happy Holidays. Thanks to the Dirty Coast store there’s have another greeting you should know…

While the holiday season ends for most on New Year’s Day, those of us with roots in Louisiana are gearing up for another season -Mardi Gras, baby!

We get this party started on January 6th with King Cake. And we’ll keep buying, baking and eating them all season long. According to tradition, you want to “get the baby” because it will bring you blessings or good luck.

This year, Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is February 13, 2018. That’s 39 days of celebration. Can’t wait to get this party started!

 

Diverse Books, Louisiana, Picture books

The Littlest Streetcar by Vernon Smith

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick is The Littlest Streetcar by author-illustrator Vernon Smith. What a sweet story!

Written & Illustrated by: Vernon Smith

PublisherPelican Publishing Company, Inc. (February 2017)

Suitable for ages: 3 and up

Themes/Topics: Self-Concept, Self-esteem, New Orleans, Louisiana, Streetcars & Trains, Transportation

Brief SynopsisThis is a story about a little streetcar named Charlie who wasn’t as popular as other streetcars because he was a maintenance vehicle. Convinced he was “just a worker car”, Charlie didn’t feel worthy or as important as the other streetcars until his skills helped them out of trouble. Charlie then realized he is appreciated and valuable and special, just they way he is.

 Opening pages:

“Charlie the Streetcar liked to roll down the tracks and enjoy his day. It made him very happy, because he didn’t go out all the time like the other streetcars.

Some days, Charlie was called upon to put sand on the rails. This would create traction, so the other streetcars could move without the wheels slipping and sliding.” 

 Why I like this book This is such an endearing story with a wonderful message. The Littlest Streetcar reminds readers that there is something special about each and every one of us. The artwork is colorful and expressive showing every character’s personality. See if you can find the spread where Vernon Smith gives a shout out to The King Cake Baby the first book we both published with Pelican; he as the illustrator.

In the back matter Smith gives a brief history about New Orleans streetcars and his inspiration for writing the story.

Resources

  • Learn more here about New Orleans Streetcars. And if you are ever in the city take a ride on one!
  • Read the history of trams, trolleys, and streetcars here and or visit your local train museum.
  • See this KidsHealth PreK-2 Teacher’s Guide on Self-esteem
  • Extension activities to help children develop self-esteem.
  • Extension crafts from Pinterest to help children develop self-esteem.

Read more today’s reviews at author Susanna Hill’s blog.

Happy reading!

Author visits, Holidays, Louisiana, Mardi Gras, School Visits

Author Visits: Mardi Gras 2017

I had a wonderful time celebrating Mardi Gras 2017. The King Cake Baby and I ran all over south Louisiana parishes, visiting with students, parents, teachers, and school librarians.

As a guest author for Scholastic, I met many wonderful educators who work tirelessly to bring books into schools for kids. Book fairs are quite popular and the state is recognized as one of the top sales areas!  📚

And while there, of course, I ate a lot of different types of King Cake!  I even ate a King Cake hamburger. Yes. I. Did. The food truck @FoodDrunknola sold them at the King Cake Festival. To my surprise, it was deliciously sweet and savory. Yum.

I was fortunate to visit Impact Elementary School at their Family Literacy Night. And had delightful visits at Port Allen Elementary and North Iberville Elementary. Watch these Port Allen Pre-K students dance! 🎶🎶

Second graders sang the 12 Days of Carnival. So much fun!  🎶🎺🎵🎷🎶 

Kindergarten students at North Iberville sang “Five Little King Cake Babies“. Cutest babies and baker in the city!

The King Cake Baby and I love to Skype with classes, especially during Mardi Gras. We hung out with a great group of first grade students in Kentucky who knew all about Kings’ Day.

Just so happens World Read Aloud Day, known as WRAD, is always during Carnival season. So the baby ran west…to Texas!

All hail the North Pointe Elementary grade 2 Kings and Queens!

                                              💜💚💛🎶🎺🎵🎷🎶 📚

It was wonderful to see kiddos from coast to coast celebrating Mardi Gras, like this Girl Scout troop from San Diego!   💜💚

Every year I bring a King Cake to my tennis club. Guess who got the baby?

Eating King Cake during Mardi Gras is a longtime tradition and fun no matter your age or where you live. But no worries if you don’t eat any by Fat Tuesday on February 28th, there’s always next year!

                                                                                                                                               

Diverse Books, Louisiana, Picture books

Chicory and Roux: The Creole Mouse and the Cajun Mouse

I was so pleased to receive an advanced copy of Chicory and Roux: The Creole Mouse and the Cajun Mouse to review for today’s Perfect Picture Book FridayWhat a fun retelling of Aesop’s fable, The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, told Louisiana style!

Written by:  Todd-Michael St. Pierre

Illustrated byLee Brandt Randall

PublisherPelican Publishing (February 10, 2017)

Suitable for ages5-8

Themes/TopicsLouisiana, Creole and Cajun culture, animal folk tale, city vs. country living

Brief SynopsisThis is a story about two mice, Chicory from the city of New Orleans and Roux from the countryside of Southwest Louisiana. One day, Chicory fell asleep in a picnic basket and ended up in the countryside where she met Roux. They explored Roux’s hometown. Chicory found Roux’s food boring, and yikes…there were alligators in the swamp!  Chicory invited Roux to explore the city of New Orleans. Although they did pass a good time during Mardi Gras, Roux prefers the way the tradition is celebrated back home. The city may have fancy food but there were dangers Roux was not used to! Chicory and Roux parted ways but promised to keep in touch. They agreed that where they live is exactly where they’re meant to be.

Opening pages:

“Once upon a Louisiana time, there lived a Creole mouse named Chicory. One morning she climbed into a picnic basket to nibble on some French bread, and she feel fast asleep. A nice New Orleans family had packed the basket with their favorite foods, such as roast-beef po’boys, Creole tomatoes, and pecan pralines. As Chicory napped, she was carried away to a picnic on a humid day!

When she awoke, Chicory discovered that the basket was smackdab in the middle of a swamp!”

Why I like this book Author Todd-St. Pierre cleverly adapted Aesop’s fable, The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, to create Chicory and Roux: The Creole Mouse and the Cajun Mouse. He highlighted city vs. country life through the lens of Louisiana culture.

When people find out I’m from New Orleans, often they ask, “What’s the difference between a Louisiana Creole and Louisiana Cajun?” And I always reply that the difference is similar to any region’s city vs. country living. Simply, where you choose to live influences how you live. As a city girl, I attended undergraduate school in Lafayette, Louisiana, located in the southwestern corner of the state. I had a wonderful experience, but I’m a New Orleans girl and identify with Chicory, the Creole Mouse! Yet I have friends and family who are like Roux, the Cajun Mouse, who would never leave the countryside. Truthfully, whether folks live in the city or the country we all celebrate the same wonderfully unique Louisiana culture.

There are two original songs at the end of the book, “Song of Roux: The Cajun Mouse and Song of Chicory: The Creole House.

Resources

To read more reviews of today’s picks, visit author Susanna Hill’s blog.

Happy reading!

Holidays, Louisiana, Mardi Gras

Happy Mardi Gras 2016!

Happy Mardi Gras! After two weeks of Carnival back home I can imagine the excitement in New Orleans today. It wasn’t a long season, but sure wasn’t short on fun. I was able to indulge in family, friends, music, and my favorite foods while there. Of course all appear on the Mardi Gras food pyramid, but there’s only one at the top.

King Cake!

1. Mardi Gras food pyramid

Here’s a look at King Cake consumption over the Carnival season from the Twelfth Night on January 6 to Ash Wednesday, courtesy of a poster on reddit. I believe this info is pretty accurate!

And just about as popular as this tasty treat is our beloved King Cake Baby! Everyone loves that baby.

The best part of this holiday is that we get to enjoy Carnival again and again, year after year. Here’s to Mardi Gras 2017. Start the clock. Only 364 days away. But who’s counting? ME!

 

Author visits, Louisiana, Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras Season 2016

Mardi Gras Season 2016 will kickoff, as always, on January 6th. New Orleans and Brazil are well known destinations for those who want to experience one of the greatest parties on earth – Carnival. Although the season varies, Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras day will always fall on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, 40 days before Easter in accordance to the liturgical calendar.

To get this party started, those who celebrate will make, bake, or buy a King Cake on January 6th.

Here’s one from last year. Keyword…”one”…I make, buy, and eat them throughout the season!

2015-02-18 19.55.47

And to show how big a deal these traditional cakes are, the King Cake Festival is an annual event to honor these delicious confections. The 3rd annual festival is January 31st. It’s a FREE family friendly event benefiting Ochsner Hospital Pediatric Departments. There’s something for everyone; music, games, food, and lots and lots of King Cakes to sample! A People’s Choice Award is given to the bakery with the most votes for the tastiest cake of the season.

Past winners included:

2015 Maurice French Pastries

2014 Haydel’s Bakery

Very excited that I will be there in Champions Square this year as a vendor with The King Cake Baby. Click here for more details and updates on this event.

There will be lots of celebrations on January 6th too. Some will attend the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc parade. Joan of Arc is a symbol of New Orleans’ French heritage. January 6th is her birthday.

Some will attend the ball of The Twelfth Night Revelers, a Carnival organization that had their first ball on January 6, 1870, a tradition that continues today. The female from their court who finds the bean- la fève – in the wooden King Cake is crowned Queen – La Reine.

The Krewe of Phunny Phorty Phellows will parade on the St. Charles Streetcar line the night of January 6th. That krewe is known as being the “dessert of Carnival”, a satirical and fun group. One of their mottos is “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the best of men.”

Click here to read my post from last year about the history of Louisiana Creole Carnival celebrations –  Twelfth Night or Little Christmas or Feast of the Epiphany or Kings’ Day and Mardi Gras.

And you don’t have to be part of a high society, live in New Orleans or where King Cakes are sold to celebrate the kick off of Mardi Gras. You can make a king cake in your very own kitchen. Watch Alex the French Guy make a French version –La Galette des Rois, he’s adorable and funny. CookingAndCrafting demonstrates how to make a New Orleans King Cake from scratch. The recipe I put in The King Cake Baby is a very easy one because it’s made from frozen dough. I used it with a handful of adults and a cafeteria full of kids to make 50 King Cakes in a few hours that we sent to our troops in the Wounded Warriors Project at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

If you don’t have a plastic baby, use a bean or a coin (wrap the coin in foil for hygienic reasons) to hide. Just remember, before you take a bite, be sure to check for the baby or whatever is hidden inside!

Bon appétit!

History, Louisiana

All Saints’ Day in New Orleans

All Saints’ Day or the Feast of All Saints is celebrated every November 1st. Today is the day the Catholic Church reminds us how we’re supposed to live, as saints did. Catholics love their saints and this is a special day to honor them. A saint, by definition, is a person recognized after death as a soul who’s made it to heaven because they’ve lived a holy life on earth. They are more than faithful, but rather exceptional. They were benevolent role models, teachers, miracle workers, and intercessors, who chose to live a consecrated life taking vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. There’s no shortage of souls who became saints in accordance to church doctrine. In fact, there’s probably a “patron saint” to pray to for guidance or even favors for anything you need or any area in your life you’d like to improve. Each known for their special interests and or talents. The belief is, since they’re already in heaven, they’ve got your back.

Today, New Orleans families traditionally visit cemeteries to clean and decorate the tombs of our loved ones in preparation for tomorrow, All Souls’ Day. Growing up, caring for your dead was a family event.

Below is a public domain photo from 1885, Harper’s Weekly “Decorating the Tombs”.

All_Saints_Day_in_New_Orleans_--_Decorating_the_Tombs

All Souls’ Day or the Feast of All Souls is celebrated every November 2nd. I wrote about the difference between these two days last year here. For centuries, New Orleans has had a special relationship with the dead. The idea that the souls of our dead live on allows us to continue to celebrate them in life. They body is gone, the spirit lives on. We want to believe our loved ones made it into heaven. But in case they lead a less than benevolent life and their souls landed in the mid-way point called Purgatory, rather than reach the ultimate destination, today is the day we pray for their mercy. The church encourages relatives on earth to celebrate the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed. For all intents and purposes it’s an annual request for free ”get out of jail cards” for Catholics.

Although I am not there today, I do visit our family tombs when I am home. For all my family members who are out at cemeteries today, thank you. I plan to return the favor one day.

 
Louisiana

National Gumbo Day: First You Make A Roux

Today is National Gumbo Day! Hooray!

For anyone who grew up in Louisiana before the internet, learning to make a gumbo was a rite of passage. Somebody, whether it was your mama, papa, marraine, parrain, mamí, papí, grand-mère or grand-père made sure to pass on the family recipe. It doesn’t matter if you learned to cook a gumbo with fowl, seafood, or z’herbes, everyone learned to start the dish the same way – first you make a roux.  Roux, pronounced “roo”, is a mixture of fat like butter, lard, or oil and flour.  Used as a thickening agent, roux also adds flavor to a gumbo. The second thing learned is to never leave the skillet because it’s not that hard to burn a roux.

This week Louisiana lost one of her native sons, Chef Paul Prudhomme. So, in honor of both he and this delicious day, allow the Chef to teach you how to make a roux. It doesn’t matter if you like it light or dark, that’s the first step.        

See my post from last year here for a bit of history on gumbo. Bon appétit!

*******************
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Np3uGcdQNUw
Louisiana, Picture books

Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans

Title: Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans 

Written by: Phil Bildner

Illustrated by: John Parra

Publisher: Chronicle Books (August 4, 2015)

Suitable for ages: 5-8

Themes/Topics: Hurricane Katrina, spirit of New Orleans, empathy, community, resilience, courage, recovery, pride, joie de vivre

Brief Synopsis: This story is based on the life of a friendly, hardworking, energetic, fun loving man named Cornelius Washington, a trash collector in the French Quarter. He did his job well taking pride in keeping the streets clean. When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans the trash pickup became a monumental task. But that didn’t stop Cornelius because he was a monumental man. Everyone he greeted on his morning route pitched in, and people came from all over the United States to help.

“Cornelius rose. He dried his eyes. For his spirit and will were waterproof.”

Opening pages:  “In the Quarter; there worked a man known in New Orleans as Marvelous Cornelius.”

“Mornin’.” He saluted the sliver-haired man with the Times-Picayune tucked under his arm.

“Greetings.” He waved to the couple with the baby on the balcony.

“Ma’am.” He nodded to the woman shanking rugs out at her front window.”

Why I like this book: Phil Bildner creates a tall tale depicting the life of Cornelius Washington into a modern American folk hero. The art of John Parra is authentic; filled with humanity and emotion. Neither the story nor the art shy away from the pain suffered as a result of the storm. Yet it brilliantly captures that joie de vivre of the people and New Orleans culture. It saddens me to know that Cornelius Washington died at age 48, a few years after the storm, and before the story was written. Many of us who are native New Orleanians have untold stories that include our own personal heroes during that difficult time who showed unbridled courage.  And there were those from afar who came to help that showed tremendous kindness. Thanks to Phil Bildner and John Parra we are reminded that they too are Marvelous Cornelius.

Resources:

  • Click here to read an interview with the author  Phil Bildner and learn about Cornelius Washington
  • Click here to read the Time-Picayune story about Cornelius Washington by Katy Reckdahl.
  • Click here to hear Cornelius Washington.
  • Click here to see the book.
  • Click here for the teacher’s guide.
  • Click here for Facts for Kids.
  • Click here for Education World lessons on hurricanes.
  • Click here for more about hurricanes from Science for Kids.
History, Louisiana, Picture books

A Storm Called Katrina

Title: A Storm Called Katrina

Written by:  Myron Uhlberg

Illustrated by: Colin Bootman

Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (August 1, 2011)

Suitable for ages: 4 and up

Themes/Topics: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, natural disasters, family, community, survival, compassion, empathy, courage

Brief Synopsis: A Storm Called Katrina is the story of a family’s experiences with Hurricane Katrina told through the voice of Louis Daniel, a 10-year-old boy who dreamed of one day playing his trumpet like Louis Armstrong. Like many in the city, the family prepared for the storm but did not evacuate. The day after the storm the water began to rise and the family was forced to leave their home. They left with nothing but the clothes they were wearing but Louis took his horn. They were rescued and ended up in the Superdome.  Although the family survived the flood waters, the conditions in the stadium were harsh and dangerous. When his father went out to find water for the family, Louis and his mother, feeling unsafe, moved to different seats. Fearing his father would not be able to find them, Louis ran down to the football field to play his trumpet. The family is reunited when his father hears him play.

Opening Pages: “HURRICANE’S COMING, Baby,” Mama said.

“I’m not a baby anymore, Mama. I turned ten last month.”

“Doesn’t matter how old you are, Louis Daniel. You’ll always be my baby,” she said. “Hush now and go to bed.”

The wind rattled my window something fierce. When the storm howled louder, I covered my ears and hid under the blanket.”

Why I like this book: Author Myron Uhlberg writes a moving story about a tramatizing event that shows how one family was able to navigate and survive a natural disaster. However it is presented in a way that is not too scary for children and is rather touching. Illustrator Colin Bootman adds to the story with his authentic images of New Orleans at the time of the flood. I especially like the page where sunlight beaming through the torn off roof of the Superdome shines on Louis as he plays his trumpet hoping his father will hear his music. This book is a wonderful tribute to family, community, and survival.

Resources:

  • Click here to find classroom discussions questions about A Storm Called Katrina.
  • Click here for Facts for Kids.
  • Click here for Education World lessons on hurricanes.
  • Click here for Scholastic site. Hurricane Katrina for upper primary and middle school kids.
  • Click here for a wealth of articles and lessons for kids from TeacherVision
  • Click here for more about hurricanes from Science for Kids.
  • In My Heart: A Child’s Hurricane Katrina Story on YouTube.
  • Children of the Storm on YouTube
History, Louisiana, Nonfiction

A Penguin Named Patience: A Hurricane Katrina Rescue Story

Title: A Penguin Named Patience: A Hurricane Katrina Rescue Story

Written by: Susanne Lewis 

Illustrated by: Lisa Anchin

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press, February 1, 2015

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: survival, courage, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, penguins, aquarium animals

Brief Synopsis: This is a Hurricane Katrina story about the rescue and aftermath of the penguins from the New Orleans Audubon Aquarium of the Americas Aquarium of the Americas. The story is told from the perspective of Patience and begins on the night the hurricane hit the city. As the oldest and head penguin, Patience had to be patient and keep Fanny, Ernie, Kohl, Bunny, Amquel, Voodoo, Rocky, Stachmo, Dyer, Zelda, Dennis and the other in line during this ordeal. Tom, the penguin keeper, helped them stay cool and fed until they were all transported to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Tom went along too, but couldn’t stay for long. Patience, once again, had to be patient. Nine months later, and the aquarium repaired, the penguins returned home in a New Orleans style celebration!

Opening pages: “Patience knew something was terribly wrong.

It was dark and steamy hot inside her home at Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans. Being an African penguin meant she was used to a warm climate, but not this warm!”

Why I like this book: Anyone with ties to New Orleans was personally affected by the wrath of Hurricane Katrina. This is one story that highlights the struggle and determination not only to survive but return. Everyone will root for Patience and her fellow penguins to go back home!

Resources: Suzanne Lewis has activities on her site here.

  • Click here for Facts for Kids.
  • Click here for Education World lessons on hurricanes.
  • Click here for Scholastic site. Hurricane Katrina for upper primary and middle school kids.
  • Click here for a wealth of articles and lessons for kids from TeacherVision
  • Click here for more about hurricanes from Science for Kids.
  • In My Heart: A Child’s Hurricane Katrina Story on YouTube.
  • Children of the Storm on YouTube
History, Louisiana

Say What? New Orleans Street Names

Say What? New Orleans street names are hard to pronounce! Yes, indeed.

There are a lot of interesting things about New Orleans. The fact that the languages, food, music, and traditions of the Louisiana Creole culture continued after the Louisiana Purchase and US statehood is unarguably unique. In my post Say What? New Orleans Speak I introduced readers to some local lingo, popular places with a bit of history, and a pronunciation guide. Today we will look at some street names. Yeah-you-right, if you want to sound like local when visiting NOLA, there are a few street names that are particularly difficult to pronounce. Tourists come across all or most of them during a visit.

Let’s start with a review. You already know locals pronounce the name of the city as  noo OR-lunz, noo OR-lee-unz, or noo AW-linz. But did you know the city is divided into Parishes and Faubourgs? A Parish is called a county in other US cities. A Faubourg (FAUX-berg) is a holdover from the French Colonial period and refers to the parts outside the city, known today as the “burbs”. The French Quarter which is the oldest neighborhood in the city today, was the original city, so the territory built up outside of that space was considered a “faubourg” or “suburbs’’. For example, there’s a Faubourg St. John, a Faubourg Marigny (MAHR-ruh-nee) and the Faubourg Tremé (tray-MAY) made popular in the HBO series Treme. However, in the TV show, the spelling Treme could be pronounced TREAM. When spelled the French way with the diacritic over the second ‘e’, Tréme, the pronunciation changes.

Here’s the thing: the blending of a handful of old world cultures that settled in Louisiana created a new culture that has over time influenced the pronunciations of old words. So a French word or a Spanish word or a word from one of the original languages from colonial or native Louisiana languages may not be pronounced as you think.

Have some fun and give these pronunciations a try. And if you get stuck, that’s okay, just ask a local, they won’t mind!

  1. Baronne: (buh-ROAN) not (bar-ro-NAY)
  2. Burgundy Street: (bur-GUN-dee) not like the wine, (BURG-gun-dee)
  3. Carondelet: (kah-ron-duh-LET) not (kah-ron-duh-LAY)
  4. Chartres: (CHART-ers) not (char-TRESS)
  5. Conti: (KAWN-tie) not (KAWN-tee)
  6. Decatur: (duh-KAY-ter), not (dee-ca-TURE) or (deck uh-TURE)
  7. Freret: (FER-et) not (FRER-ay), the French way
  8. Iberville: (EYE-ber-ville) not (IB-er-ville)
  9. Tonti: (TAWN-tee) not (TAWN-tie) ignore #5!
  10. Tchoupitoulas: (Chop-a-TOO-luhs) not, well…you can imagine
  11. Toulouse: (TOO-loose) not (Too-LOOSE)
  12. Tulane: (TOO-lane) not (tu-LANE)

After you have it all figured out, plug in New Orleans street names to a car navigation system on your visit if you want to get a good laugh.

And please, strike up a conversation with a local while out and about. When home, the local lingo is what makes it feel like home to me. A typical greeting from an old childhood NAY-bah I may see in da MAW-nin’ could go like this, “Hey dawlin’! Where y’at? How’s yamama’n’em? You bettah come pass by ma house before you leave.”

And that is music to my ears.

Holidays, Louisiana, Mardi Gras

How to Catch Mardi Gras Throws

How to catch Mardi Gras throws is a question asked by visitors every year. Is it an art? Is it a science? Catching “throws”, the beads, cups, toys, doubloons, and trinkets thrown from Mardi Gras floats is serious business. Can tourists learn to maximize their chances of returning from parades with a huge haul?

As we say in southern Louisiana, yes, indeed! Below are some tips for a successful trip.

Throws

Quick tips:

1. Comfortable clothing. Seems like a no-brainer, but yes, I’ve seen people in open toe shoes and heels. Clothes worn to the gym or yoga are great. Parades are no place for vanity, people! Keep your eye on the prize, catching free stuff!

2. Training & Exercise. Competing with locals who are obviously born with the ”catch” gene will take some preparation. Work on your vertical jump. Start a stretching routine. Flexibility is key. Improve your reflexes.

3. Anticipation. You have to be able to recognize when a float rider has targeted you for the throw or someone else. If the 3-year-old on his or her father’s or mother’s shoulders is the target, you have seconds to decide if you will snag that throw. However, if you do, I suggest you move to a new location.

3. Practice. Get in front of a mirror, raise your arms up high, wave furiously while jumping up and down and scream, “Throw me somethin’ mista’!” Acceptable alternatives include, “Hey, ova here!” or “Me! Me!” or “Here, here! Mistah’!” I’ve witnessed many falls. Can you say EMBARRASSING! Practice, practice, practice.

4. Visual attention. Never take your eye off a passing float! Let’s face it, some float riders have really poor aim. Use your peripheral vision to avoid elbows, arms, and crashing bodies. Ouch.

5. Competition. It’s important to size up those parade goers around you. Assess the number of parade ladders with seats. How many are nearby? Cute kids in costume. No explanation necessary. You think older people are no threat to a successful haul? See #2. For locals, it’s their natural habitat. Do not be deceived. Missed air born throws that reach the ground are their specialty. Do not try to pick them up. Feet are used to accommodate for their lack of upper arm mobility. Crushed fingers are no fun.

4. Science and more. Here’s where that high school physics class you thought you’d never need could be useful. Speed. Distance. Velocity. Mass. Are the beads small or large? Short or long? Single or in a full pack? With or without a medallion or some other attachment? Applicable to other trinkets and toys as well. Consider the type of toss. Underhand or overhand? Adult or child? Factor in the level of inebriation. How badly does the krewe member sway and lean? Inebriated float riders may throw a pack of beads intact. Muscle motor function may be impaired. In short, they have difficulty opening the plastic bags. Be brave. Be ready.

Good luck out there! And remember, if you may catch so many beads and trinkets that you’ll have to consider paying the airline overweight charge, or have to check an additional bag on your flight home, félicitations! Well done!

You did it! Be proud. Start planning a return trip. You know you can do better next year.

Happy Mardi Gras!


Author visits, Holidays, Louisiana, Mardi Gras

NOLA kids

NOLA kids Meet the Author & Illustrator event. Thanks for having us! Visit them at 333 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130.

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Vernon making his mark

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Krewe of Barkus rolling through the French Quarter

Author visits, Louisiana, Mardi Gras, Picture books

Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble Meet the Author event. Thanks for having me B&N! Visit them in Metairie at 3721 Veterans Blvd., (504) 455-4929 or in Harvey at 1601B Westbank Expy, (504) 263-1146

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