Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In Which I Find My New Favorite Lafayette Hangout and Get a Cavity

Mission: Accomplished. After running my errands, running 8 miles, and finishing my "chores," I treated myself with a visit to Poupart Bakery. The only question I can ask myself about the place- why did it take me so long to go?? It is a quaint bakery with the standard bakery fare plus soups and sandwhiches and quiet corners for getting lost in a book while enjoying your coffee and baklava. And indeed, they had King Cake.

They have small cakes (kind of like the personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut, except it's not a pizza), so I got one of those, Bavarian creme-filled. I could only take about three bites because it was so sweet. Just looking at all that sugar results in a cavity.

Looks like I got the Baby Jesus! I guess it will be my turn to throw the next King Cake party.

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King Cake

Today's mission: find and eat some King Cake. Well, I have lots of things to accomplish today (cleaning, running, errands, etc.), but I am determined to eat some King Cake, too. What is King Cake? So glad you asked.

King Cake is a Mardi Gras tradition, originating from France. There are two types of King Cake, American-style and French-style. The American-style is a brioche-type bread or cinnamon roll bread baked into a large oval shape and drizzled with either cream cheese or other flavored icing. Usually purple, gold, and green sugars adorn the icing. The French-style is a denser, flaky pastry with an almond flavor. Both styles come with the tradition of the Baby Jesus.

Baby Jesus?! How does he fit into all of this?? King Cakes come with a small baby figurine. The figurines used to be baked into the cakes but now they just come with the cake for you to do the hiding (because, you know, we live in Twenty-first century America and there are these things called "liabilities"). The baby figurine represents the Christchild. Mardi Gras season started on Epiphany (a day in which we remember when the wisemen visited Christ at his birth) and so is, in theory, a time when we reflect on Christ coming into this world. How should we remember baby Jesus? By eating colorful cinnamon rolls! The person who eats the piece of cake with the baby figurine is supposed to throw the next King Cake party.

King Cakes (along with other festive decorations and colorful desserts) can be found all over. I have seen them on table displays at grocery stores and Walmart. But I plan on going to a bakery (I am thinking Poupart's) and get a quality King Cake. I wonder who will get the piece with the Baby Jesus? I'm going to take a wild guess and say... me!

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

C'est Bon

Yet again, I am home, exhausted, after a full and satisfying day at work. I started my day by leading a workshop for a troop of Junior Girl Scouts so they could earn their "Eco-Action" badge. Nothing kickstarts my day faster than inspiring girls to think of ways they can positively impact their world. I spent the rest of the day in Eunice at the Prarie Acadian Cultural Center.

I visited for a myriad of reasons and I know my visit was well spent. I will be updating much of the nps.gov/jela website soon and I wanted a collection of photos to use for the website. I also wanted to experience the music programs, foodways demonstration, and the Rendez Vous des Cajuns show.

The show is broadcast on the radio and local television shows every Saturday night from the Liberty theater. It showcases Cajun bands. The park is a co-sponser; one of the park rangers introduces the show, in fact:

I bet if I asked real nice-like, I could open the show one night, too. It was good for me to spend some time with the site's rangers and get to know them a little better. I think they enjoyed getting to know me, too. Eunice is an endearing town and the Liberty Theater (adjacent to the visitor center) is quite charming. I will get to visit Eunice again for La Vieux Mardi Gras De Cajun (if I don't visit again on my own!). The country-style of the Cajun Mardi Gras is very different than that of New Orleans, or even Lafayette, and will include revelers on horseback, races, chicken-chasing, and, of course, food. It is the site's busiest day of the year and I get to help for the day. I continue to learn that I have so much more to learn here. C'est bon.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Refreshed by a Refresher

Last week I spent in middle Tennessee. Technically, I was there to take the wildland firefighter refresher course to maintain my red card certification. But it was also a way for me to visit Murfreesboro and see all my peeps in Tennessee. The trip did well by me and I am feeling refreshed, inspired.

Well, I am feeling emotionally refreshed. Part of the annual refresher includes taking the "pack test." The pack test, at the arduous level, involves hauling a 50-pound pack for three miles in less than 45 minutes. And one foot must be one the ground at all times (no walking). So the parts of me that are not refreshed are screaming at me. Admittedly, I did minimal training for this specific test as I have been training for a half marathon in March.

It was a beautiful day for a physical exertion test. At 37 degrees, with a crisp breeze and some minor drizzle, I could not feel my nose or fingers. We tried to joke that the positive side of the cold was that maybe we wouldn't feel our legs burn. Ha. The first mile was probably the worst, as I was trying to find my groove. I deliberately let the group start ahead of me to give myself my own space to do my thing. I had been training with a pack but thet provided weighted vests for the actual test. I tried leaning forward, then standing up straight, long strides, then fast steps. I finally found my groove when I started my version of a runway walk. Work it, girl: fire pants, hiking boots, red hat, purple nails, all a'sparkles, struttin' my stuff. I rocked those last two miles.

It may be that extra flare that is the cause of my seemingly extra soreness. What can I say? I live for that extra flare. So now I got my Smokey on and now am ready to serve on a fire crew if need be. Well, maybe after another day or so and a few more doses of Tylenol.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Where are you from?

I read this article today about military kids answering the question, "where are you from." I appreciated the sense of normalcy the article provided. I have attempted many of the answers that the other kids had provided. I STILL struggle with the question, in fact, if for no other reason than I get asked it a lot at work. People want to know if I am from here and it is hard to say, "no, I am not really from anywhere." I usually answer, "before here, Tennessee." That often seems to suffice. I lived in Tennessee longer than anywhere else in the world (all of four years and two months... an eternity in the life of an Army Brat). I feel like Tennessee is "home." But Tennessee hasn't claimed me officially, yet. My "home" has always been "where the Army sends you."

I chose a job known for its mobility. I don't know how long I will be in any one spot, ever. I know that I feel more comfortable in some regions than others. I also know nothing is forever and if I wind up somewhere I don't really jive well with, I will move on soon enough. My background and upbringing probably has a lot to do with why I chose my profession. My family protects/protected the nation in a very literal way. I protect the nation in a different way. I help take care of of the places, stories, and ideas that make up the nation. I don't necessary think my life is on the line, although I know sometimes it happens. By moving all over the nation and parts of the world, I was granted a perspective that broadened my understanding of this nation and provided some insight to how the nation is perceived by other parts of the world. It also encouraged a severe sense of resilency in me; I can overcome anything. Doubt it? Watch me.

I will still trip a little in my answer to the "where are you from" question. I wonder if I will ever live in any one place long enough to call it home? But I will also smile when I see eyes glaze over as I ramble off the list of the elevenish states and two countries I've lived in during my life so far. What part of "Army Brat" did you not understand?

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

where's my foam finger? oh, right. i don't have one.

What are you supposed to do while you wait for your car's oil change? Yeah, that's what I do, too. I feign interest in the weather channel playing quietly in the corner and filter through the magazines, pretending to be completely consumed by the article on motorcycles in the "Car and Driver" issue in order to avoid having an awkward conversation with the others in the room. Actually, for whatever reason, there were only stacks of sports magazines in the waiting room the other day when I went for an oil change. SPORTS?!? SO.... BORING!!!!

I had no intention of even feigning my usual feigned interest of waiting room magazines when I caught the term "cultural landscape." In a brief caption of an article in the ESPN magazine, there was mention of Tim Tebow and the changing "cultural landscape" in sports. Cultural landscapes?!? I love to read about those!! Of course it would take a strictly academic term for me to even consider looking at a sports magazine. It turned out ESPN's definition of cultural landscape varied from my own, but it provided me some thoughts to chew on, about cultural landscape perceptions within the public (#nerdalert).

Part of that thought had foundations in my wonderings from earlier in the week, when a major event occured in the state. No, I am not refering to Governor Bobby Jindal's reinauguration Monday night. Louisiana State University played the University of Alabama in the national championship game in New Orleans. I don't actually care about football (except that since everybody and their mother was watching the game on Monday night meant I got to grocery shop in peace). But the weight of this game was present all weekend. It's just a game! The very empty aisles of the Rouses grocery store provided me time to think about the expanse of football in society. It is pretty amazing the amount of money spent on the game, players, commercializing, advertising, watching, drinking, eating, prepping, cheering, and, wait. For what? For a few (in this case, college-aged) guys to toss around a football in matching outfits. For many places in the country, football IS a part of the culture, a part of an identity. I may not relate, but if I want to fully absorb a cultural landscape currently, I can't fully ignore the purple and yellow (excuse me, gold) or black and gold, or whatever other team people root for. Maybe a better approach is asking "why?" Why do people personally invest so much, identify with, sporting teams?

My questioning or pondering time may not last for long, because, as I may have already expressed, I dislike sports. And I am pretty sure I won't hear "geaux tigers" any time in the near future... the state is still grieving its loss. Give it time. But every year (unfortunately) as I begin to get excited about wearing scarves, drinking hot cider, feeling the crisp air, and seeing the leaves change, there will be those ready to wear their jerseys, paint their faces, and holler encouraging words to the little football men on the television (or for the fortunate, in person). So I will have this chance to think of these things again.

Or I will just get annoyed and roll my eyes. I make no guarantees.

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Sunday, January 8, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Mardi Gras

I have met several local people who have expressed that they are usually more excited about celebrating Mardi Gras season than the Christmas season. The season officially began on Twelfth Night, (aka Epiphany or January 6th). That is when the trees come down and the purple, green, and gold starts to come out. 'Tis the season of King Cake and balls, of parades and masks, of amplified festivities and fun. Mardi Gras celebrations vary depending on what part of South Louisiana they take place.

Since I am still learning about the customs, I will just have to keep you posted throughout the next several weeks about the traditions and celebrations. Today my coworker tried explaining to me about the various aspects of a Krewe's court. There are many rules; I learned sadly that I am too old to be a Krewe Queen. A Krewe is a social organization that basically revolves around planning, designing, and implementing festivities and traditions related to Mardi Gras celebrations (specifically, I understand, to designing and manning floats in the various parades). Pagentry is a huge part of these customs and planning can sometimes take over a year.

I am looking forward to seeing how this season continues. I find myself the odd one out, as I don't share the enthusiasm for the season. King Cake is delicious, and I am a fan of pagentry and things that sparkle. But I feel like an outsider, an inquisitive being peering into another world- a Mardi Gras snow globe. I will just have to wait and see what I find during this discovery process.

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

football time = nap time

I am currently "watching" a football game. BOR-ing! I am in New Orleans, staying with Saints fans. But I have an attention span of a four-year-old when football is on the television. So I will blog, instead. I have been busy working, cleaning, and running. This weekend I was temporarily "stationed" at Chalmette Battlefield to support the living history anniversary events. Yesterday, I helped unload and load over 2,000 students visiting the battlefield. Before the day, some of the staff made it sound like I had been assigned to the Seventh Circle of Hell with that duty. I had fun and thought it went well. I worked with some good folks and it kept me busy enough to keep out of trouble. Today I worked at the visitor center all day, interacting with nearly 1,000 visitors. I enjoyed myself, doing what I love to do. I will say that I am exhaustified now. So maybe I will just use this game time to nap.