Mardi Gras 2014 – A day of rain, costumes and life lessons

Mardi Gras walking krewe st anthony ramblers

Our parade/walking krewe rolling through the Quarter. This was taken last year or the year before. It was warm then.

Last Tuesday I was put to the test. I was pushed to the edge of my physical and emotional limits. I didn’t participate in a triathlon. Or even host a dinner party (we all know how trying that can be). I was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

Yep. Three fun filled days in the Crescent City.

I learned some things during those three days and I’d like to share them with you now.

But before I do that, I must dispel some of the New Orleans Mardi Gras myths.

1. You need to show some skin to get beads. I’m not sure why this myth continues to be perpetuated, but it is the furthest thing from the truth, unless you’re on Bourbon Street. But even then you can score beads without flashing anyone. In reality, you’ll get way more goodies during the family friendly parades that run throughout the city. We’ve gotten so many beads we’ve left bags of them behind and I’ve never lifted my shirt once.

There, I just had to get that off my chest (hehe).

2. Mardi Gras is an adults only event. This is totally untrue. Kids line the streets of the parade routes and dress in costume just like the adults. And you’re actually more likely to get good beads and stuffed animals if you have kids with you. No one can resist their cute little faces.

Mardi Gras costume aquatic family

A lovely aquatic family out for a stroll.

You might wonder why you would need so many beads and stuffed animals. I once wondered the same thing, but now I know the answer: for your Mardi Gras tree, of course.

mardi gras bead christmas tree

We left our Christmas tree up and covered it with Mardi Gras beads and some of our best catches. It’s quite festive.

 mardi gras plush hermes

Our plush Hermes H that we caught last year.

mardi gras zulu coconut

This is a prized possession: the Zulu coconut. It’s not a real coconut, but it’s still really cool.

mardi gras muses parade oyster

I was handed this during the Muses parade last year. It says “the world is your oyster.” Another a prized possession.

3. It’s always warm in the South. Ha! The South can be colder than Denver, Colorado. Nobody wants to believe me when I say such things, but it’s true. Denver is dry and has more sunshine. A sunny 45-50F day and you might be outside in a tee shirt (well maybe not me, I’m a bit of a wimp). In New Orleans, I’m usually wearing my winter coat, with a sweater and long underwear.

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So, this year we booked a last minute trip to New Orleans and then fretted about our costumes. Costumes? Yes, costumes. And not just any old costumes. I mean costumes. You have to compete with this paper mache frog and a crawfish boil:

mardi gras costume frog monteleone

I love how the frog is just sitting there like it’s totally normal for a frog to be at the bar.

mardi gras costume zapps monteleone

Yes, that is a dress made out of chip bags.

mardi gras costume tomb

A very creative New Orleans tombstone/crypt.

mardi gras costume crawfish boil

This crawfish was part of a crawfish boil and was wheeled around the city in a giant pot. The dog is not part of the boil. He was dressed as astronaut and either got tired or there were too many people around so he ended up in the pot too.

mardi gras costumes pompa loompa

A gaggle of Oompa Loompas.

mardi gras costume queen of hearts

My cousin Lindsay and her fiancé dressed as the Queen of Hearts and Mad Hatter. They found another queen so we had to snap a picture.

mardi gras walking krewe st anthony ramblers

Parade members stopping for a break in the French Quarter.

So, we decided to recycle our costumes from two years ago and went as Alice in Wonderland and the White Rabbit, but I needed something to embellish my costume. I couldn’t wear the exact same thing I’d worn two years ago. It would be like wearing the same dress to the Oscars twice. Insanity, right?

mardi gras costume alice in wonderland

Our versions of Alice in Wonderland and the White Rabbit.

This is where I will share what I’ve learned.

Lesson #1 – Even though I’m usually right, every now and then my husband is right.

So, to embellish my costume, I decide I want a sign. After a little prodding, my husband very begrudgingly builds it and I decorate it (because no one wants a bland sign).

Over and over he repeats that he “will not carry the sign.” He insists that he will end up holding it, and he refuses to.

I, of course, roll my eyes while he isn’t looking. Does he really think I’m so lazy that I can’t carry a 4 lb sign? That I will become tired of holding the masterpiece I’d worked so hard on?

Well, he is wrong. I am going to dance with the sign and wave it proudly over my head. It will be in all of our pictures. He is going to be soooooo thankful I made that sign!

But there is one problem. It’s freezing outside.

I gaze sadly out our hotel window at 9:00 in the morning and the streets are deserted. I slide an extra layer of leggings over my pantyhose and wear two long sleeve shirts under my dress.

We step out of the hotel and immediately go back for my coat. Then, three blocks later we buy umbrellas.

Now I’m carrying my sign and the umbrella.

Crap. My fingers are already freezing and it’s annoying having to hold two long objects over my head. (Can you see where this is going?)

We make it to Frenchman street and everyone is packed inside the bars. Usually there are people partying in the streets. But not today. We meet these nice folks, though, also dressed as Alice in Wonderland.

mardi gras costume white rabbit

About an hour later our parade arrives. Oh, yeah. That’s the other thing.  We’ll be marching with the St. Anthony Ramblers. Outside. For like 4 hours.

By that time my husband has relieved me of the sign and fastened it to his belt. He says, “I told you so” only a few dozen times. Sadly, my beautiful sign is only in one picture. And no one was thankful I’d made it.

mardi gras costumes alice in wonderland

Lesson #2 – You can rain on my parade. We march from the Marigny to the French Quarter with the brass band playing. We dance. We laugh. Occasionally, we huddle inside for warmth. We see people we have’t seen in over two years and we make new friends.

It becomes what Mardi Gras always has been for me: A chance to live in the moment. A chance to forget everything and not think about what you have to do a week from now or even an hour from now. A chance to just be happy and celebrate.

mardi gras revelers

Like this. Look at the joy on these faces.

Soon there is ice forming on my husband’s cup, surrounding his fingers. And my toes are completely numb.

In case you’re wondering it was 39 F. The record low for Fat Tuesday was 38 F, set back in 1899.

But we came out and celebrated all the same. We didn’t let the cold and rain stop us.

Lesson #3 – But next time, I will pack a warmer costume just in case. Like a yeti, or an eskimo or lumberjack.

Lesson #4 – Remember to always look on the bright side. Moving forward, it’s likely that we’ll never have weather this cold and icky again. So, it can only get better from here.

Lesson #5 – This will be one of those days we always remember. It’s like when you’ve got this vision of the perfect day and then things don’t turn out like you planned, but now you’ll always remember the day you froze on Mardi Gras. See how I can spin things so positively!

P.S. This is what the sign looked like at the end of the day.

DSC06039

See the broken spot on the bottom. That’s where the handle used to be attached to the sign.

He always had it out for that sign.

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Libby’s Post – At least I got my pirate

Halloween candy

Image courtesy Luke Jones via Flickr

So, I woke up this morning with a hangover. Yep, a vampire hangover.

The day began like any other Halloween. I had plenty of candy for the kids. My yard was decorated with a couple of uncarved pumpkins and a sign that said, ‘boo’ on the door. It was a step up from last year and I didn’t want to call attention to myself, you know.

After the last of the rug rats came by, I planned to head to the bar down the street. They have a costume contest every year.

And that’s where I was stuck. What was I going to be? A vampire is a total cop out. It’s like when a doctor or a nurse dresses as a doctor or a nurse. Seriously, the point is to be something you’re not. Then there’s the slayer option. I’d make an awesome Buffy Summers, but I had a feeling plenty of vamps had already been there, done that.

I strolled the makeshift aisles of the Halloween store. Some of the costumes were immediately placed in the ‘no’ category. A wicked witch costume? Not enough leg. A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle? I didn’t even know an adult woman would dress as such a thing.

And I ruled out anything with face makeup. All of that greasy, comedogenic crap on your face. No thank you.

Halloween Store

Image courtesy Kimco Realty via Flickr

My eyes went from package to package, really just looking for the word sexy. Anything can be made sexy nowadays. I’m pretty sure I once saw a sexy lobster costume.

I settled on a sexy mermaid. I guess I wanted to see how well I could walk dressed as a fish. And I thought it would be quite the sight. A vampire mermaid feeding off Batman or a pirate. Yes, I would have to find a pirate to feed on.

I was beginning to get in the spirit, so I quickly took a drink from one of the clerks behind the store. Don’t worry. She’ll be all right. I left her with plenty of blood and a couple of no nonsense fashion tips.

It was around 5:00 p.m. when I heard my front door open. I ran, well shimmied, downstairs and there was Evan, home early.

“Nice costume,” he said, dropping his bag with a thud.

“Oh thanks, I’m a mermaid.” I gave him a hug that hardly felt reciprocated.

“Really? I thought you were a vampire.” He pulled away and gave a small smile.

I adjusted my seashells. “Oh, right. I’ve always loved your sarcasm.”

He sat on the couch and folded his hands in his lap. “Guess what, my dear Libby. We’re having a party. Tonight.”

“Uh, what?”

“Don’t worry. I’ve already invited everyone. Some co-workers, some friends. I went through your phone contacts to make sure I got everyone.”

“My phone contacts?” Crap. Why was I stupid enough to have Nerdo Vamp and Brian in there?

Garlic cloves

Image courtesy Crispin Semmens via Flickr

He pointed to his bag sitting by the door. “I even got some chips and dip. It’s garlic. Everyone loves garlic.” He looked at his watch and then back at me. “People should be arriving any minute.”

I began to freak out. I tried to protest, make excuses. Evan just kept saying something along the lines of: “Well, Libby, is there a reason we can’t have a party? Is there something you need to tell me? You better say something before everyone gets here.”

My brain scrambled to come up with something. I was usually a great liar.

Then the doorbell rang. It was Zed. Zed from the Yoga Spot dressed as a marijuana leaf.

Evan ran to the door and greeted the leaf. “The wine goes in the kitchen,” he said.

“Uh, okay.” Zed slipped through the door and started toward the kitchen. “Bummer, am I the first one here?”

“Yep,” I said, giving Evan the nastiest look I could.

Zed came back into the living room looking confused. “I thought this was supposed to be a surprise party.”

“Well it still is.” I took Zed’s arm. “I’m surprised. Come on. Let’s get you a glass of wine.”

The doorbell rang again and I hoped it was one of Evan’s friends. Or not. I wasn’t sure what to hope for.

I peeked around the corner. Now Nerdo Vamp, Brian and Mr. Brown Eyes were all standing at the door. That’s when I knew Evan knew. He was on his third attempt at inviting them in, without actually inviting them in.

“Please come in,” I yelled from the kitchen.

Nerdo Vamp rounded the corner and whispered in my ear.

I replied under my breath, “He knows.”

“Knows what?” Evan said loudly. “That you’ve been talking to animals and having an affair with this vampire?” He pointed at Brian.

The room went silent. Zed was the first to speak up. “Dude. He’s not a vampire. He’s like a zombie or something.”

“Goblin,” Brian corrected him.

Nerdo Vamp cleared his throat. “Well, everyone, it seems Libby and her husband have some personal matters to attend to.” He took Zed and led him out of the kitchen. “We should give them some privacy, don’t you think?”

Brian squeezed my arm on the way out and whispered, “Call me.”

So then Evan and I had the talk. At first he seemed to take it okay, but then the truth finally settled in. It’s one thing to think you know something and another for it to be confirmed. He left around 10:30. Said he needed time to think and be alone.

He left still believing I was having an affair. Probably because he was once a cheater. It’s hard when you’ve broken someone’s trust. You end up certain they’ll do the same to you.

Pirate

Image courtesy Frank Kovalchek via Flickr

So, I went to the bar and had a few drinks. I didn’t call Brian. I drank alone. After a sexy alligator won the costume contest, I went outside and fed on my pirate. He was tasty, but almost too intoxicated to hold himself upright. I left him next to the dumpster and walked home, stumbling over my fishtail.

There was a note taped to the front door. It was from Evan. I put it on the coffee table and went to bed.

And now that I’ve taken my ibuprofen and forced like a gallon of water down my throat, I’m ready to read it. It said that he had a secret too. He was going to tell me last night, but lost the courage. He wanted to meet at the Waffle House at 1:00 p.m. How considerate. He must have known I’d be too hung over to meet any earlier.  And I do love waffles.

**Why not start the series from the beginning? Click here to read about Libby’s first day as a vampire**

18 steps to making a mini top hat (in the real world)

1. Procrastinate the making of your Halloween costume. You have plenty of time to put something together and your favorite TV show is on tonight. But you’ll definitely start working on it tomorrow. You promise yourself.

2. Initiate panic sequence the day of your Halloween party. You’ve dug through your closet and were able to throw a  costume together, but realize you need a cute mini top hat to top off the outfit.

3.  Hoard multiple empty cereal boxes in your basement. If you’ve actually done this, you were either featured on Hoarders or you were using them to make mini top hats and then decided you would make loads of them to sell. Later you did the math and realized you would have to make one an hour to be profitable. Sadly you were averaging one a weekend.

Cereal boxes for top hats

At least it’s not Lucky Charms..

4. Stockpile yards and scraps of tulle and fabric, along with baubles, buttons, and faux flowers because if there is a zombie apocalypse you know you’ll be able to sell them for a huge mark up.

Tulle and fabric

One day this will be organized. Likely after I fold the laundry and finish my novel…

(If you realize you weren’t proactive enough to have completed steps three and four, your hat making experience will require a trip to the grocery store and/or the craft store. This will add to the stress created by steps number one and two.)

5. Rummage through your supplies to find a color combo that works. It’s best if the materials are spread all over the floor so your cats can roll on, bite and bat all your precious materials. It will also annoy your husband.

6. Use the power of suggestion so that your husband decides he should go to the coffee shop and bring back your favorite beverage.

7. Pick suitable background noise. Music is okay. But I find a showing of The Hunger Games or Vampire Diaries works best. A word of caution though, the background noise should not compete for your full attention. This could lead to hours of watching and no crafting. I’ve seen it happen before. It’s not pretty.

8.  Begin construction. Because you’ve waited until the last minute, there is no time for patterns or measurements. You just use objects around the house that “look” like they’re the right size.

Tracing cup for top hat

I used a water glass to trace the top of the hat.

Fringes for top hat

I follow my traced line when cutting out the top, but actually cut a centimeter or two outside of the line. Then I make these little cuts to create a fringe. Then I fold them in so they can be tucked into the body of the hat.

Tracing bowl for bottom of hat

Then I use a bowl to trace the base of the hat and cut along the traced line.

The strip of cardboard (see below) that makes up the body of the hat will have to be cut a little longer than the circumference of the top of the hat, after the fringes have been folded in.

photo 1-2

This will make it so that the body of the hat ends up being the same width as the top of the hat, but will allow some overlap to glue the ends of the body together. The width (or short part) of your body piece will determine how tall the hat is.

cardboard mini top hat

To make it easier to form the body of the hat I sprinkle it with water and then rub it in a bit. You can now form it into a  tube and glue the ends together. If you want your hat to narrow at the base of the body it will have to be cut into an arc to allow for this. It is a pain but I just keep eyeballing it and trimming it until it is right.

For the base of the hat, you will cut a round hole in the middle of the base that is a little smaller than the circumference of the body. I center the glued body in the middle of the base piece and trace around it. Then when cutting, I follow the line, but cut about a centimeter or two on the inside of the line. Then I cut the little fringes to the traced line (as done with the top of the hat above) and fold the fringes in, so that they can be tucked into the body of the hat (see below).

photo 1-1

The outer line here is where I traced the body, and the inner line is where I would cut to leave myself space to make the fringes.

9. Pause to reheat coffee and discuss how unrealistic a certain vampire character is.

10. I forgot to tell you your husband is also working on a hat. His is a store bought top hat that he is embellishing. After about 20 minutes of work he shows you what he has done. Be careful here. If you are not sensitive in your critique you will end up working on two hats.

11. Begin working on husband’s hat. He has become frustrated, whiny and defeated. But first, pause to go to the bathroom.

12. Once you’ve finished with your husband’s hat, listen to him gloat about how he knew if he whined enough you would just do it for him.

13. Realize that a couple of your cardboard pieces are cut too big, or perhaps the others are too small. Since you can’t make the smaller ones bigger, you trim the larger ones trying not to make things worse. You likely make things worse and now your hat is about half the size you originally planned. Pause to go the bathroom again.

Cardboard mini top hat

You will then insert the fringes of the base into the body of the hat and glue them in place.

cereal box mini top hat

And insert the fringes of the of the top into the body and glue in place. Of course my top was a little big so I had to jam it in there.

Fabric over mini top hat

Then I cut fabric to size (I just eyeballed it). You could have traced the fabric earlier using your cut box pieces, but I like to do things the hard way.

14. Add the finishing touches and repeatedly tell yourself that no one is going to look that closely at it anyway. Curse the earlier cup of coffee because you have to pee again.

Trim around mini top hat

You’ll want to add trim around the top, the base and brim.

15. Attempt to remove the glue strands that are now on the couch, coffee table, cat, your hair and of course clinging to all parts of your hat.

16. Revel in your masterpiece and then realize you’ve been crafting almost all day. You will surely be at least an hour late to the party. Thumb through a magazine and surf the internet for a few minutes.

17. Scramble to get ready and then head to the party. About 10 minutes into the drive you’ll realize the hat is still sitting on your dining room table. Turn back and arrive at the party 45 minutes late.

18. Revel in the fact that you are only 45 minutes late. And you have an amazing top hat! And there you go. I hope you enjoyed my mini top hat tutorial. With the proper amount of hoarding, procrastination, spousal manipulation and caffeine you too can have a top hat just like this!

Red and black mini top hat

And then embellish and attach to a headband or alligator clips. I have no idea how most people attach the hat to the headband, I just glue gun the heck out of it 🙂