Monday, April 29, 2013

Arriving at the Party

This past February I had the wonderful opportunity to have a once in a life time experience!  Ever since my family traveled to New Orleans in 2011 and learned all about Mardi Gras, I have always dreamed of being in New Orleans during that time to experience that famous event first hand.  One day in February I got a text from my sister Bethy asking if I would like to spontaneously fly down to NOLA for Mardi Gras, how could I say no to that, it was a dream come true!  It was so spontaneous and last minute and that added to the fun of the trip!  Mardi Gras season lasts about two weeks, with parades going all day every day.  Our trip fell on the last weekend of the season and we left the day before actual Fat Tuesday.  We had heard from numerous sources that being there on the actual day of Mardi Gras was chaos and not worth staying for.

I'm sure a lot of you might have a different idea of what goes on at Mardi Gras .... Sorry to break it to y'all but all the myths aren't true.  You don't have to flash anyone or drink yourself silly in order to participate in the festivities.  I didn't do either and had the time of my life.  I got TONS of throws from the parades and left all my many clothing layers ON! haha  There are better ways of getting what you want from the Krew members then "baring it all" ...

Now that we have experienced Mardi Gras, we know the perfect way to have the best Mardi Gras experience.  Here is my list of how to get the most out of your Mardi Gras experience, I'm mainly writing this all down for when I go again, I really want to go again!  But if any of you readers ever go ... well then I hope this helps!

1.) First of all, our hotel, The Blake Hotel, was in the perfect location, it was right on the parade route on St. Charles.  We learned that St. Charles was better then Canal street for watching and participating in parades.  However, if you stay there, don't worry about getting a street view. No matter what floor your on, you can't really see the parade.  I was on the second floor right were the balcony was, so I had beads and other throws hitting my windows well into the night.  It was funny for maybe the first 5 minutes...

2.) Parade watching on St. Charles is even better if you pay to stand in the stands, it is totally worth paying for and really isn't too expensive.

3.) Eat lots of King Cake, there are sooo many different fun varieties out there, it is so much fun to try as many as you can!  What is king cake...?  Well, Mardi Gras season begins on January 6, of each year and ends on Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent. One of the wonderful traditions of Mardi Gras, and probably the most delicious, is the King Cake.  On the Christian calendar, the 12th day after Christmas is celebrated as the date that the gift-bearing Magi visited the baby Jesus. This day, January 6, is known by several names, including "Epiphany", "Twelfth Night", or "Kings Day".  As part of this celebration, it is now traditional to bake a cake in honor of the three kings - the King Cake. King Cakes are oval-shaped to symbolize the unity of faiths. Each cake is decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors - purple representing justice, green representing faith, and gold representing power. A small baby, symbolizing the baby Jesus, is traditionally hidden inside each King Cake.  Whoever gets the piece of cake that has the baby hidden inside gets to host the next party!

4.) Bring a big sturdy bag with you when you go parading, you are going to catch a TON of necklaces, stuffed animals and other random things that you are going to need help carrying, they will not all fit in your purse, so I learned.

5.) There are so many parades going all of the time, there is no way to see them all and some are definitely better then others. Do some research and pick out a few that you really want to see and make those a priority.  We saw 4 different parades (that might not sound like a lot, but they are LOOOOONG parades.)  and all of them had different strengths:

Iris - Best throws
Bacchus - Best Floats
Endymion - Best Lighted Floats 
Tucks - Best ugly, useless throws 

(we didn't mean to attend the Tucks parade, we just happened upon it,
 but it was good for some laughs and for getting some toilet seat sun glasses)

6.) Spend some good quality time in the french quarter.  Wait in line for Cafe Du Monde beignets, the line looks crazy long, but moves crazy fast, and lets face it, they really are the best beignets in town.

Those are all the tips I can think of at the moment, follow those, and no matter what you will have a happy experience!
We left Salt Lake after work and school, so we got to the Big Easy fairly late, but not too late, plenty of festivities were still going on right outside our rooms.  We quickly checked into our hotel, dumped all our luggage and headed out to the balcony to watch the parade that happened to be passing right by our hotel at that moment.  We later found out that the balcony was reserved for people in the military, whoopsies ... but nobody was up there when we happened to wander out there so I'm glad we got to experience the balcony for a a little bit.  I have no idea was Krew's parade this was but we were so excited to be witnessing our very first New Orleans Mardi Gras parade!

We were thrilled to quickly discover that krew members don't only just throw necklaces, they throw WHOLE BAGS of necklaces!!!  Awesome!  However, we also quickly discovered you need to make sure you watch were those bags are flying so they don't hit you in the face ...  This was the first bag that I caught, I was super excited about it, I thought they were rare .... Later on in the trip I would end up with so many bags I wouldn't even try to catch them anymore thus they are not as rare as I originally thought

We watched the parade for maybe 30 minutes and I caught this many necklaces, I thought I had done well!  But yet again, I had no idea how well I could do ... After our first parade experience we needed some food, we were starved!  Most places were closed seeing as it was around 1 am by this point.  Luckily we were told about Ernst Cafe so we headed there for some late night dining.  The streets were alive with so many different kinds of people, laughing and having a good time!  The whole atmosphere of Mardi Gras is just so much fun.  Everyone is so friendly, we met so many different people from all over the nation.

After our late night meal, we headed back to the hotel I was so anxious to get to sleep so that I would be well rested for our big day of parade going the next day.  My room at the Blake was amazing, it had the highest ceilings and was a nice big room.  Such a perfect place to come back to after a looooong day of traveling and fun having. 

The next morning we were excited to get some king cake for breakfast! We found this excellent list of all the best king cakes to get in town.  We made it a goal to try them all!  We got to 4 of the 6 places, I would definitely count that as a success!  All of the places listed are worth going to even if you didn't get any king cake, some are nice restaurants with insanely delicious food and others are adorable little bakeries that would be fun to visit, no matter what the occasion.  

We decided to begin our king cake quest at Bittersweet Confections, it is one of the adorable bakeries.    We got there right in time, they had one king cake left!  We got that to share between the three of us, then we all got to pick another pastry.  I got a scone filled with lemon curd, and a refreshing iced chai to complete my breakfast of champions. 

Their take on the festive cake was rather simple, traditional spice cake filled with cream.  However, the cream filling was the best cream filling I have ever experienced it was amazing! So even though this cake was simple compared to some of the others that we tried, it was so delicious and worth the walk!  Not to mention it was so little and adorable!

After our super sweet breakfast, we headed to canal street to claim some front row seats for the Isis parade.  

Since the sidewalks are jam packed full of parade watchers and all their parade watching gear, it's easiest to get around by walking the actual parade route.  We were walking down St. Charles and ran into these guys and could NOT pass up the photo opportunity they so obviously presented.  they were Isis krew members, each of their outfits represents a festival celebrated in New Orleans!

These ladder seats are everywhere and are rather genius!  You get a great view, and you get to sit down!  I never in a million years would have thought of that idea

We got to canal street right at the perfect time.  We got to pick where we wanted to stand, so we picked to stand right in front of the Ritz and had front row seats!!  We got there with about ten minutes to spare before the parade started heading our way.  Beth and I decided to try out bright lipstick as a way to get throws from the Krew members, totally worked!
Happy and oh so excited for the parade.....!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cupid's Arrow Tea Party

This year I threw the second annualValentines tea party for all the lovely ladies in the family that live in Utah! Jenny and her two girls came as did mom, Bethy, and Marolynn.  Even Dina was invited! It was so nice to have a house in my own so I could go all out!  I love my bay window and kitchen table for entertaining, it makes for such a great party space!  I made gluten free chocolate cupcakes again, but this year I decorated them with edible gold spray paint, edible glitter, and marshmallow toppers.  So quick and simple, yet so rewarding!

For drinks I served strawberry cheesecake hot chocolate as well as chocolate hazelnut hot chocolate and blueberry pomegranate lemonade.

Marilynn brought these adorable candy canes as party favors!  They were a big hit!
Everyone was nice enough to help with the wonderful buffet!  Bethy brought cucumber sandwiches, mom brought lemon cookies, and the Griffins brought heart shaped fruit skewers and I made jam and cream cheese heart shaped tea sandwiches.

It was such a fun afternoon of yummy treats and good company.  I'm already excited for next year!