Parade Season

On my return journey from Texas, I made a convient stop in New Orleans because it happened to be (the very infamous) MARDI GRAS.

Now, I had heard New Orleans was a pretty rocking town during this holiday. However, my expectations (a drunken festival with ladies flashing their boobs for beads) were surpassed 10-fold.

Mardi Gras is a culturally rich event for the people of New Orleans. Parades are the center piece of the entire holiday. "Parade Season" begins almost a month before the actual Mardi Gras - January 6th. Groups of people form "krewes" that present parades all throughout New Orleans from downtown to the French Quarter. Krewes dress in elaborate, clever costumes and march next to or ride on decorated floats. Most are accompanied by a brass band or music of some sort.

My cousins are in a very traditional krewe that marches with mule pulled floats with each followed by a brass band - this is how its been done for years.

Unfortunately, I was not able to see my cousins' krewe. However, the last five days of Parade Season are when the largest, most embellished parades are run. Luckily, I was there for that. Now, as I said before, I was unprepared for Mardi Gras - my assumptions were completely wrong. I had no idea there even were parades.

Thus, when we went to our first one I was stunned.

The entire street is lined with people. Between the floats there is somewhat of a lull but as soon as one approaches everyone gets there hands up, starts yelling and jumping, hoping to catch the infamous "mardi gras"beads. I was surprised to find out that this is the way 99% of people get their beads on Mardi Gras. As my cousin proudly told me, "a lady never needs to expose herself for beads."

I was also surprised to find out that its not just beads that are throw from the floats. Some throw larger items that are highly coveted by the crowd. The most common "throws" besides beads are cups or strings of beads with a plastic pendant attached. These are decorated with the krewe's logo. People gather so many cups from these parades that they often use them at their homes for parties. Thus, they are lovingly dubbed "Mardi Gras china".

Since the streets get packed, these ladder/seats are a must-have for parents with young kids. The seat holds the little kids high enough to see the floats and, more importantly, puts them in the perfect position for bead snagging! Notice that, in true New Orleans fashion, even the ladders are festively decorated.
Seeing youngsters in there is just adorable.

Now, the parades aren't just about the floats - not even close! Participants get SUPER creative.

Even the music is presented creatively!

Did I mention dancers!? These are the 610 Stompers. Interstate 610 is part of interstate 10 that lies entirely in New Orleans. Thus, the 610 Stompers. These guys preform their dance the ENTIRE parade route. Most performers stop for a break so sometimes they'll just be walking past your stretch of road instead of preforming. The stompers received high praise for their consistent entertainment and were even featured in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2011.

As the night gets darker, floats get brighter.

And these guys come out - the Flambeaus or "torches". In early Mardi Gras, due to lack of electricity, these guys lit the night parades. It is customary to give the Flambeaus money when they pass in order to thank them for lighting the parades.

Even the trees catch some beads. My cousin said, along the parade routes, beads will stay in the trees year round.

The day creates quite a mess but New Orleans has a terrific method of cleaning. First, rakers come and rake everything from the grassy areas onto the street. Then, street cleaners roll through and grab everything. You could drive down a parade route an hour later and it be spotless.

Two thumbs up (and one shocked face) for Mardi Gras Parades! By the end of the night my neck was heavy with beads.


back in time

i'm back in action, folks.

there is much to catch up on. for one, i never properly documented the return journey from texas. then there's overseas adventures that you didn't know about. yes, plenty to post.

however! since i'm ridiculously behind on all my travels i figured what's the harm in going even further back in time and starting with a post from texas.

piet and i got excited one night and decided to cook over the open fire. since he'd been traveling all around the US with only a car and modest supplies, he often had to rely on his ability to start a fire (usually in a camp ground) to eat. as he said "if i couldn't build a fire, i couldn't eat". so i figured why not get some practice in while its not a life or death situation.

started out by sautéing onions, garlic, and sausage for the sauce base. basically the same deal as cooking over a stove except its much harder to control the temperature of the pan - there's a bunch of hot spots so rotating the pan and removing it from the fire were good tricks.

added canned tomato sauce and spices to the onions, garlic, etc (on the left). while that "simmered" i started boiling water for the pasta (on the right)

mission accomplished!


no pinocchio

so, to be honest, i've left texas.
to be exact, i left texas on february 19th. then spent a week in new orleans which is a whole other story. this is just a farewell to texas. specifically the wonderful, colorful people i met there.

two nights before we left, i cooked dinner for everyone. it was a real challenge cooking for six people on an electric stove-top in a 4' x 2' kitchen. but i pulled it off. we ate spagetti and meatballs. i had to improvise because of my limited ingredients so they were made with hamburger meat and potato chips  (in stead of bread crumps - i thought it was clever). i seasoned them well and, after pan frying, of course they're going to be good. debby supplied the salad, so, all in all, we had a decent dinner.

did i forget to mention the ambiance!? piet started a fire and i decorated the table with roses and brought out speakers bumpin' simon and garfunkel. oh, and contributed the last of my whiskey supply which everyone but cody and i shied away from.

from left to right - piet, debby, johnny, amy, and cody - what a cast of characters

i even got a great picture of saddie's rump :-P


day tripper

went to houston for the day but there was literally nothing going on. when we stopped into one of the few open shops and asked for advice on "what a tourist should do in houston" the response was "get out of downtown". apparently houston is a commuter city - everyone drives in to work and the real exciting stuff happens in the suburbs. so we ended up going to montrose which had a bunch of antique stores and i indulged my addiction to books and bought two nice hard cover books - emerson's collected works and this side of paradise by fitzgerald. i'm excited about both reads. otherwise houston wasn't a great city to mess around in. it was harder to drive around the suburbs, not really sure what you're looking for. its not the type of city where you wander around on the streets, do shopping, sit in a coffeeshop, stumble upon quaint stores. it wasn't my cup of tea.
although i did enjoy the fountain in tranquility park, a gift from gus wortham.

and then there's austin!
such a cool city. we went there a couple days after houston and had such an enjoyable time.
if you ever visit austin here's my suggestion based on how our day went...

1) walk down 6th street and have a burger at Hut's Hamburgers on W 6th Street near West Ave. on the way you'll pass the Driskill Hotel - the oldest operating hotel in austin

2) do a hiking or biking trail in zilker park right by lady bird lake if you want to stay close to the city. or if you don't mind a ten minute drive, check out barton springs, a natural spring that the city adapted into a swimming area.

3) walk on north congress, look north, and get a great view of the state capitol building

4) walk on south congress and browse the unique shops and eateries that line the street.

5) check out book people, waterloo records, and the whole foods market around n. lamar and w. 5th street.  the whole foods is the whole foods headquarters, so they've really done it right. there are tables to hang out and taste food, buy a meal, or just have some wine and cheese. waterloo records has a great selection of music and sometimes even live music. and book people is a homier barnes a nobles with plenty of staff picks and books divided into creative sections like "you shoulda read the book first"

6) have ice cream at Amy's either on south congress or right across from book people on lamar

7) have dinner at a food cart on east 6th street. however normally the city is divided east and west by congress blvd. but the real divide is after you pass under I-35 which runs right by austin. so, go to the east side of 6th street, passing under I-35, and you'll find good bars and food carts to enjoy.

its especially cool because the carts are grouped together and create a courtyard for all the diners. one cart had a tv mounted into it and was showing ferris bueller's day off. it felt like we were at a friend's house for a barbeque.

i'd love to come back. it seemed like we just scratched the surface



with all the cows on the ranch sometimes it can be hard to get around. i'm not sure exactly how many carol has but i'd guess between 50-75.
plus the numbers are always growing because of this guy. he's the only bull in the whole herd, and he's been pretty busy over the last couple months. when i got here there were only 3 babies. now there is at least 14 and each day it seems a few more pop up.

all the female cows are all black but the poppa has a white face so all the babies have been born with white faces. they're easy to spot from the road and count because their white faces stick out so much. you can even see the one in the background here.

to me grown up cows look awkward and a little brain dead, but these babies are just adorable.

so adorable!



recently its been warm enough to have bonfires outside and even wear shorts. the horses are shedding too which means summer (and warm weather!) is on its way.
its a little odd to be able to say that in early february. going to florida in the winter for a couple days is one thing, but seeing a mild winter (by texas standards no less) followed by an early summer is really something else.


trails and trees

took one of the horse trails into the woods yesterday.

i'm still in awe of the live oaks around here and there were plenty to admire on my walk.

gif maker
this one had only two limbs that arched outward. i love that they don't grow straight but turn and arch and bend. the picture doesn't do much justice to the limbs so i highlighted them.

it looked like it was reaching out for a hand shake, so i obliged

here's what i mean about multiple trunks rather than a bunch of branches.

 they are even attached at the base.

seriously, can't get over these trees!