my new orleans

Four years ago, a strange New Orleans welcomed me. Four years later, I cry as I leave MY New Orleans, firmly holding the gifts it gave me.

It gave me the gift of growing in to an adult. Of moving to a new city on my own, without the safety of friends and family. It gave me the option of risk. It gave me my first grown-up job; my first career paycheck. It gave me the most perfect New Orleans students. Their smiles and their mischief. It gave me an adventure. It gave me the most perfect house on a street appropriately named Fleur de lis. It gave me yellow walls the color of sunshine. It gave me a perfect roommate to call my own and to cherish. It gave me a place to experience a new relationship for the first time; for he and I to figure things out on our own, in our own time.  It gave me a new place to explore at every corner, at any hour.

New Orleans gave me my perfect school. My precious family of students. It gave me coworkers to work with, collaborate with, bond with. It gave me a space to grow in life with my cousin. To adventure together in a city we both wanted to know more about- to unwrap the mysteries of. It gave me a place to grow my serious relationship; for us to navigate life together. I got engaged in this place; in my city. I planned a wedding and dreamed of my future in the Big Easy.

New Orleans gave me another year with my family of students. There is no one like them. It gave me the perfect partner teacher to share my students with. It gave me a place to navigate my first year of marriage. To do it on our own, away from piercing eyes. It gave me the perfect apartment for newlyweds. An apartment that overlooked the most adorable part of my Crescent City. It gave me tree-framed streets and a glistening bayou. It gave me hustle and bustle and quiet and calm. It gave me joy.

New Orleans gave me a space to live my marriage. To truly live it. It gave me the path to refine my craft, my teaching ability, my career, in a supportive environment. It gave me the most perfect coworkers and community, relationships I will value for a lifetime. It gave me pure friendships and the love of my students. It gave me another year with the children I see as family. There is NO ONE like them. New Orleans gave that to me.

To quote Emma Roberts, “when I can’t sleep, I close my eyes and walk through the French Quarter.” I believe this will also be true for me for many years. Only instead of the French Quarter, I will walk through the perfect four years New Orleans gave me, in my city.

laissez le bon temps rouler

Mardi Gras season this year has seemed extra long! I have been documenting Mardi Gras pictures since mid January, and have still been going a few days into March. Ian and I made it our mission to experience as much New Orleans Mardi Gras as we could this year, and I also endeavored into Eunice, La to experience Cajun Mardi Gras! Here are some photos that document 2017’s Mardi Gras Season.

Before the parades even started, Ian and I were drinking and nibbling our way through king cake and king cake flavored items. I became obsessed with finding the perfect king cake latte (final verdict: CC’s for taste, Bean Gallery for presentation), and we endeavored to find gluten free king cake for Ian to enjoy.  HiVolt provided us with our gluten free king cake donut needs, and even included the cutest king cake baby with each donut! We also made our own gluten free king cakes: Ian on his own, and then my friend Johnna and I made another! My other favorite king cake inspired treat was from Creole Creamery: king cake ice cream with added Nutella. Yum!

My cousins Emily and Hannah took Ian and I to the MOST MARDI GRAS STORE called Jefferson Variety Store. This place was amazing!  It was partially a well-stocked warehouse where krewe members can buy their throws, as well as a costume and fabric store.  The store had a large supply of beautiful masks, unique and sparkly fabric, glittery appliqués, and the cutest little plastic cups filled to the brim with glitter!  Hannah and Emily found this store useful for accessories for their Mardi Gras costumes, and my friend Lauren and I later found it extremely helpful when we needed a mask for our own costumes (more on that later).

My first realization in searching through my parade pictures, is realizing that I don’t have that many! I mostly have videos, which is better for my own documentation and memory purposes, but not convenient for posting to blogs. Nevertheless, above are a few pictures and screenshots of my videos to hopefully somewhat represent the parades Ian and I went to this year! (Ian and I also started a new tradition of hanging our Mardi Gras beads on a tall lamp that I recently bought… it looks very festive)

Our first parade of the season was Krewe of Eve on the Northshore.  Our friends Kayla and Matt live on the Northshore, and Eve rolls right in front of their neighborhood! It was a super fun way to spend a Friday night: eating tacos, chatting with friends, taking a nice walk, and watching a light-hearted parade!

Krewe of Muses was the next parade on our agenda! Muses is always the Thursday before Fat Tuesday, and it is ONE of my favorite parades.  Muses has an all-female krewe, which I think is super cool.  I always love to see all the Muses girls’ costumes, complete with fun colored wigs, glitter, full blown colorful makeup, and eccentric outfits.  To make Muses even better, this year their theme was DR. SEUSS!!! You can only imagine how adorable each float was. Each one adorned a Dr. Seuss inspired quote on the back, perfectly summing up each individual float’s message.

Next, we attended my ABSOLUTE favorite parade: Endymion! I love Endymion because it takes place in the best neighborhood in NOLA (Midcity), and it’s walking distance from Ian and I’s apartment! Every year for the last four years, Endymion has fallen on a beautiful, sunny day during Mardi Gras season.  It is a pleasure to spend the day tailgating, hanging out, and waiting for the parade to roll. I followed my three year personal tradition of wearing black&white stripes and heart sunglasses, and strolled down the bayou to my favorite parade.  I got to hang out with some awesome friends before the parade started, and Ian came to meet me later on when Endymion began rolling. The rest of the parade consisted of elaborate floats, bead catching, hanging out with our friends Trey and Hadley, and an epic sprint by me and Lauren.  Lauren and I realized that we missed our friend Matt on his float (#26), and when we realized we had missed him the parade was at float #31. So we made a spontaneous decision to SPRINT half a mile to try and reach him. It was a pretty epic moment, because we grabbed hands and began running as fast as we could through the parade route, dunking under parade go-ers that were trying to catch beads, weaving in and out of people, passing through marching bands and basically skimming on the sides of the floats! While we were running, music from the floats and the marching bands are blaring, so it literally felt like we were in a running scene in a movie (very Nerve-esque.. think the scene when Emma Roberts and Dave Franco are on the motorcycle… “Electric Love” in the background.  This should set the scene). Anyway, even after an epic run, movie-like moment, we did not reach Matt. :( But we had a blast trying and got over 10,000 steps in, sooooooo….

The next day, we met back up with friends on St. Charles Ave for Sunday parades! First, Krewe of Thoth rolled down St. Charles, and this was the most fun little day parade! I really enjoyed it.  I got to stand on a ladder for the first time, and the theme for Thoth this year was just so stinkin cute! It was Food Around the World (or something like that), so every float was a different food theme, every krewe member was wearing a chef hat, and the krewes were throwing adorable food themed items like pot holders and moon pies. Our friends also had the hookup with having a little rent house off of St. Charles, stocked with food, air conditioner, real chairs, and a bathroom. This is equivalent to “glamping” during Mardi Gras for me.

Later that night, we attended Krewe of Bacchus along the same route. Bacchus is always fun, and it includes fun floats like King Kong (where YOU throw beads at IT, instead of them throwing beads t0 you), as well as usually having a celebrity grand marshall, etc. However, Ian and I were honestly super tired from days of non-stop Mardi Gras, so we tapped out of Bacchus early and went home.

Next, onto our Cajun Mardi Gras adventure! Every year in Eunice, LA,
Faquetaique Courir de Mardi Gras is celebrated (don’t ask me how to pronounce that). Over the past few years, I have seen many of my friends and family participate and I became interested in participating myself, having never done something like that before.  I invited my friend Lauren to join me in the adventure, for several reasons! Lauren is originally from Pennsylvania, and has been living in Louisiana for the past three years. She has experienced a ton of Louisiana culture during this time, but has yet to venture to a small LA town like Eunice.  Additionally, she is moving back home to the Northeast region of the U.S. soon, and this seemed like the perfect time to introduce her to a cajun/country aspect of Mardi Gras before she leaves!

One of the traditions of Courir de Mardi Gras is preparing a fringed outfit and having a mask and capuchon (tall coned hat). Lauren and I looked at a lot of pictures for inspiration, and then set out to work on our costumes. We picked traditional Mardi Gras colors for our fabric first (green, gold, purple), and then threw in a cutesy pink color just to mix it up. We each dug out our sewing machines and went to work! We cut each color of fabric into strips, fringed each strip, and then began sewing the fringed strips onto a cozy cheap pajama shirt we found. This process took us about a week to do; as we worked on them a little bit at at time on random days after school.

We also needed a mask! We went back and forth on exactly what we wanted. We ended up back at the Jefferson Variety Store and searched for the perfect masks.  We picked a pink one (to match our rogue non-Mardi Gras color fringe), and it was perfect because it had a bird beak, which we had seen in our reference photos we looked at.

We also needed a capuchon! This was super last minute, and we literally grabbed giant birthday hats from Party City the night before, and mod podged gold glittery dots over the “happy birthday”sign. Super efficient.

On to Eunice! On Fat Tuesday, we woke up promptly at 4:15 am, dropped our friend Kat off at the airport by 5:00 am, and made our way to Eunice. By 8:00 am we were fully dressed in our outfits and mingling with several other hundred fringed humans. For the next seven hours, Lauren and I experienced first-hand a true Courier.  It’s hard to put into words exactly what happens. Basically the overall idea is that we are going from house to house begging for gumbo ingredients.  There is a song to sing to beg to the owners of the house, the owners give us ingredients, there is a lot of chicken chasing, boudin eating, A LOT of walking, singing, and cajun dancing. And ate at the end, everyone “uses the ingredients” to make a big gumbo! The pictures can honestly speak for themselves.

Overall, I had a great 2017 Mardi Gras season! It was full of great friends (new and old), delicious food (minus a partial Whole 30 mixed in there), and lots of diverse experiences!

Laissez le bon temps rouler!