Bashful Gets a Taste of Gumbo and Brass Bands

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It’s been a while since I’ve given you an update on Bashful’s New Orleans adventures. Every time I turn around, that little fella is hopping into my human mommy’s purse and they’re headed out the door. I finally got those two to sit down long enough to tell me where they’ve been and to share a few photos. Wow. They’ve been busy. A couple of weekends ago, Bashful joined both of my humans at Armstrong Park for the Treme Creole Gumbo Festival–New Orleans’ Premier Brass Band Showcase, which is presented by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation. In New Orleans, we love a festival. There’s at least one every month–sometimes one each weekend of the month–and they usually revolve around tasty food and great music.

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This festival features gumbo of every sort you can imagine: creole gumbo, seafood gumbo, chicken and sausage gumbo, even vegan gumbo and smoked tofu and Portobello mushroom gumbo. (Just for the record, Mommy doesn’t recommend those last two.) Bashful had quite an appetite that day, so he also tasted some red beans and rice served with fried chicken and corn bread. (Mommy had a little bite of the fried chicken. She said it was one of the best things she’s ever eaten. She’s still talking about it.) Naturally, Bashful chose to chase down his festival food with a couple of local Abita Brewing Company Amber beers.

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With his taste buds satisfied (for the moment), it was time for Bashful to enjoy some brass band music. Brass bands are a new Orleans tradition. Rebirth Brass Band, Hot 8 Brass Band, and the Original Pinettes Brass Band, an all-female group, are some of the more well-known groups. Bashful settled in and listened to a few songs by the Panorama Jazz Band. It was my humans’ first time to see them perform, and they had every bit as much fun as Bashful.

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Having spent the afternoon enjoying two of New Orleans’ greatest offerings–gumbo and brass bands–Bashful had one more stop to make before leaving the festival. He headed straight over to visit Miss Linda, the Ya-Ka-Mein Lady. If you don’t live in New Orleans, you probably haven’t heard of ya-ka-mein. Here’s how Miss Linda’s website describes this local delicacy:

Ya-Ka-Mein is one of New Orleans’ well-best-kept secrets. It is a soup. They call it Old Sober. Ms. Linda is world famous as the guardian of the secret juice recipe in her Ya-Ka-Mein. Taught how to make the broth by her mother Shirley Green, Ms. Linda keeps the tradition by lacing the broth with the perfect mixes of spices–not quite Asian, not quite Southern–adding noodles, green onions, a hard-boiled egg and hot sauce. It’s a sure-fire remedy for a New Orleans’ size headache, which is why it’s known as “Old Sober.”

If Bashful keeps drinking that Abita Amber beer, he just might need another helping of Miss Linda’s famous ya-ka-mein.


This Special Delivery Rocks

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Last Friday, my little sister and I received a very special delivery from our sweet little piggy friend Bacon. (If you already know Bacon, then you know what a special little pig he is. If you don’t know Bacon, click here to link to his blog. I promise you’ll fall in love.) To say that our box from Bacon sent both of us into a tizzy would be quite the understatement. It was packed full of everything a girl could ever want.

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Tallulah and I were especially obsessed over the pink piggy toy. We spent quite a bit of time trying to dismember him, but he’s tough and managed to survive . . . at least for the first round.

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As fabulously fun as the pink piggy toy and the fancy treats were, there was something even more special in that little box from Bacon. Meet Bashful, Bacon’s pet rock. As Bacon says, “He knows a lot of tricks like stay, sit, be quiet and dad taught him how to play dead. Bashful is a happening pebble. He actually has his very own segment called Field Trip with Bashful… the international rolling stone. It is about all of his adventures in field trips around the world. He goes to all kinds of different places and stays with host families for two weeks.” Bashful has been to France, Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan, Hawaii, and so many more fun places.

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I gave Bashful a little kiss and welcomed him to New Orleans, Louisiana. He’s going to be our houseguest through Thanksgiving, and my humans and my little sister Tallulah Bee and I are beyond excited about showing him a good time.

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No sooner had Bashful rolled out of the box than he and my humans were off to the bus stop for his first big adventure . . .

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. . . and his first “go cup,” which he enjoyed while waiting for the bus to arrive. Go cups are a very New Orleans thing. In most cities, you have to consume your adult beverages inside. Not in New Orleans. Here you’re free to poor that drink into a plastic cup and sip it while strolling down the street. Judging from that little smile on Bashful’s face, I think it’s safe to say that he was happy to embrace the go-cup tradition.

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After a short bus ride to the Central Business District, Bashful plopped himself down on the bar at Borgne (pronounced “born”) restaurant for what my humans say is one of the best happy hours in the city of New Orleans.

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After digging into the catfish sliders and the fried turkey necks, I think Bashful would have to agree with my humans.

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Next stop was a quick photo-op outside of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome . . .

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 . . . and then another photo outside of the Smoothie King Center . . .

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 . . . before heading inside to watch the Phoenix Suns play our very own New Orleans Pelicans in what I am quite sure was Bashful’s first NBA basketball game.

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My humans’ normally sit in the nosebleed section. But their ticket rep must have heard about their very special houseguest, because on this night they were upgraded to these sweet seats. They’re thinking of asking Bacon if Bashful can stay through the end of basketball season.😉 Unfortunately, even the great Bashful wasn’t able to bring the Pelicans their first win of the season.

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So it was time to jump back on the bus and head toward home.

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I was so happy to see Bashful again and to hear about all of the fun he’d had on his first night in New Orleans. I’ll be honest with you, I think he was a bit tired, so we’ve let him catch up on his rest the last few days. Trust me, he’s going to need his energy to take on the Big Easy through Thanksgiving. We have quite the adventures planned for our new little friend.


Haunted New Orleans: Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop & the Lalaurie House

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Happy Halloween! It’s time for the last–and most terrifying–stop on our tour of New Orleans haunted places. I don’t know about you, but my nerves are still rattled from the Sultan’s Palace . . . and frankly I could use a little liquid courage before heading to our final destination . . . so let’s take a slight detour to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, which is right behind me.

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Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop was built between 1722 and 1732. The building, one of the oldest in New Orleans, served as a base of operations for the famous pirate Jean Lafitte in the early 1800s.  Today it’s home to a popular Bourbon Street bar. It’s also home to its fair share of ghost stories. Although more than 200 years have passed since Jean Lafitte did business here, his presence is still felt and seen throughout the bar. Look closely at the fireplace in the main room and you just might see Lafitte’s menacing red eyes staring back at you through the grate. The faint scent of cigar smoke fills an area of the piano bar, and a ghostly figure resembling Lafitte with a drink in one hand occupies a corner table. And ladies, you might not be alone when you visit the powder room. The famous pirate, quite the womanizer in his time, has been spotted in the women’s restroom. Careful when you climb the stairs to the second floor of the bar. The face of a woman appears from time to time in a mirror hanging on one wall. It might be the ghost of famous voodoo queen Marie Laveau. Or it could be the evil spirit of the infamous Delphine Lalaurie, which brings us to our final frightening stop.

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Madame Lalaurie has been called the Mistress of Death. She and her third husband (she was twice widowed) lived in this grand French Quarter mansion in the early 1800s. Those lucky enough to be invited to the couple’s lavish gatherings marveled at the home’s opulent interior and the gracious welcome they felt from the lady of the house. But there was another far less genteel side to the house and the hostess. That horrible reality was revealed in 1834 when a fire erupted in the kitchen of the Lalaurie house and quickly spread. No one could have imagined the atrocities that firemen found when they entered the home. Delphine Lalaurie had been gruesomely torturing her slaves. A seventy-year-old cook was found chained by the ankle to the oven. She confessed to starting the fire as a suicide attempt because she feared being taken to the third floor. She said anyone taken there never came back. That’s where the firemen found more than a dozen slaves, male and female, locked behind a barred door. Some were chained to the wall; some were strapped to makeshift hospital beds; some were confined to cages. All had been horrible tortured. Many were mutilated.

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Word quickly spread of the evil that had occurred in the middle of the French Quarter and an angry mob assembled in front of the house. A carriage sped out the gates and through the crowd. The Lalaurie family was never seen again. Some say they fled to France. Others say they escaped to the woods north of New Orleans along Lake Pontchartrain. The Mistress of Death might have left her mansion, but the ghosts of her victims remained. The building went through a series of owners and tenants who were haunted by groans, cries, and screams of agony. The Lalaurie house and its mistress have recently experienced a bit of Hollywood-related hype. Actor Nicolas Cage purchased the Lalaurie house in 2007 and lost it in foreclosure on November 13, 2009. And the actress Kathy Bates played a character based on Delphine Lalaurie in the 2013 television series American Horror Story: Coven, which was filmed in New Orleans.

MISS HARPER LEE’S HAUNTED NEW ORLEANS TOUR

Thanks for joining me on my haunted New Orleans tour. If you missed any of our stops, you can click on the links below.

Stop 1: Gallier Hall

Stop 2: Arnaud’s Restaurant

Stop 3: The Sultan’s Palace

Stop 4: Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop & the Lalaurie House


Haunted New Orleans: The Sultan’s Palace

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On the previous stop of our New Orleans haunted places tour, we met a couple of friendly ghosts just keeping an eye on things at Arnaud’s Restaurant. Well today, friends, the tour gets spookier . . . a lot spookier. That building behind me is the Gardette-LaPrete House, also known as the Sultan’s Palace. Originally built in 1836 in the Greek Revival style, the structure was purchased in 1839 by John Baptiste LaPrete, a wealthy plantation owner who planned to use the French Quarter residence as a town home. LaPrete made the lacy wrought-iron additions to the building and sought a renter to occupy the home when he wasn’t using it.  And that’s where our story takes a decidedly macabre turn.

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A young man from Turkey, said to be a sultan’s brother, soon became LaPrete’s tenant. He was joined by an entourage of beautiful women and eunuch servants. Before long, the lavish parties started. Neighbors heard exotic music from within and smelled incense escaping from the doors and windows. Rumors began to circulate: Was the young Turk conducting opiate orgies inside of the home? Was he grabbing beautiful women from the French Quarter’s streets and torturing them into submission before adding them to his harem? One night the music stopped, and a neighbor passing by the next morning made a gruesome discovery. Blood was trickling out from beneath a door, down the steps, and onto the sidewalk. When the police entered the building, they were met with a horrible scene. Body parts littered the home. Blood was splattered everywhere. There were no survivors. But where was the Turk? Eventually the police discovered his badly injured body buried in the courtyard. They suspected that he had been buried alive.

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The crime, certainly one of the most horrendous in the city’s history, remains unsolved. Some people at the time suspected that pirates had attacked the partiers. Others speculated that the Turk and his entourage had been murdered by emissaries of his Sultan brother, who was either angered that his brother had stolen his harem as he left for America or was intent on executing all of his male relatives in an attempt to secure the sultanate. We may never know . . . unless one of the ghosts that still haunts the Sultan’s Mansion decides to speak. To this day, passersby hear mysterious music drifting from the home. They smell the faint essence of incense. They hear blood curdling screams. And they see the figure of a man sitting in a window, perhaps trying to tell the people below what happened on that horrible night.

MISS HARPER LEE’S HAUNTED NEW ORLEANS TOUR

Stop 1: Gallier Hall

Stop 2: Arnaud’s Restaurant

Stop 3: The Sultan’s Palace

more to some


Haunted New Orleans: Arnaud’s Restaurant

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It’s been a while since we started our tour of haunted New Orleans. I hope you weren’t afraid that the ghost of General Benjamin “The Beast” Butler grabbed me when we were outside of Gallier Hall. No worries. I’m perfectly safe and ready to show you more of my hometown’s spookiest spots. Today’s ghostly haunt is Arnaud’s Restaurant, one of the grande dames of New Orleans fine Creole dining. The French Quarter restaurant opened in 1918 under the leadership of Arnaud Cazenave, a French wine merchant. Cazenave earned the entirely ceremonial title of “Count Arnaud” thanks in part to his flamboyant reign over his restaurant’s dining room. After Count Arnaud died, his daughter Germaine Cazenave Wells headed the restaurant until 1978 when it was sold to its current owners, the Casbarian family.

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While Count Arnaud and his daughter are long gone from this Earth, they seem a little reluctant to leave their beautiful restaurant. Staff throughout the years have reported seeing a dapper tuxedo-clad gentleman in the corner of the dining room. The apparition resembles Count Arnaud, supervising the comings and going of the restaurant he started almost 100 years ago. Fortunately, the ghostly man is always smiling . . . a clear indication that he approves of the kitchen’s precise preparation and the wait staff’s splendid service.

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And it seems that Germaine likes to join her father at Arnaud’s. Patrons have seen a woman in a hat exiting the ladies’ room. She crosses the hall and disappears into a wall where a staircase once stood. Perhaps it’s Germaine Cazenave Wells ascending the stairs she remembers to visit the restaurant’s Mardi Gras museum, which was established in her honor in the 1980s. The misty figure of a woman appears from time to time among the museum’s gorgeous ball gowns, many of which were worn by Germaine during the carnival season. Could it be Count Arnaud’s daughter checking on her gowns and recalling her days of revelry? I’ll let you decide.

MISS HARPER LEE’S HAUNTED NEW ORLEANS TOUR

Stop 1: Gallier Hall

Stop 2: Arnaud’s Restaurant

more to come


Our Least Favorite Season

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Hurricane season is our least favorite season. Autumn brings colorful leaves and cooling relief from summer’s oppressive heat and humidity. Spring marks an awakening from the dullness of winter, with beautiful blossoms and butterflies. Hurricane season just brings months of dread and anxiety. Generally at this point in the season, we’re starting to breathe a sigh of relief . . . but not this year. As I dictate this to my human mommy/blogging assistant, we’re watching Matthew approach our friends in Florida. We know a thing or two about hurricanes here in New Orleans and South Louisiana. During Hurricane Katrina, too many people were trapped in New Orleans with no means to evacuate. Today these Evacuspot sculptures dot the city.

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Residents are encouraged to meet at these spots to be transported to safety. And they’re encouraged to bring their pets. Some people refused to leave before Katrina because they were not allowed to bring their pets with them. Lesson learned from that experience, thank goodness.

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My humans have done their share of hurricane preparation. Plywood cut to fit our doors and windows rests in a storage unit. We hope we never ever have to use this plywood protection (Mommy says she hopes this is the biggest waste of money ever😉 ), but it’s there if we need it.

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Throughout hurricane season, Mommy ensures that Tallulah and I are stocked with food, treats, supplements, and medicine. Good work on that, Mommy.

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She also makes sure that the humans have plenty of water and nonperishable food on hand. When the threat of hurricanes passes, she donates the canned goods to our local food bank . . . except the pop tarts and deviled ham. Those she eats to celebrate the end of the awful season.

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And we stock up on batteries, batteries, and more batteries. We keep the flashlights handy and pull out the portable radio. (Yes, our portable radio is practically an antique, but it works.) We even have a battery-operated fan, which I absolutely love. You might notice that a shower curtain is included in our hurricane supplies. Why, you might ask? Sometimes hurricane power outages mean that the water supply is cut. The shower curtain can be used to line the bathtub prior to the storm and then the tub can be filled with water. (The shower curtain keeps the water from leaking through the drain.) You need to have water to flush the toilet, and flushing the toilet is super important to my mommy. Trust me, you’ll thank my mommy for this tip.

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So as we watch Matthew churning toward Florida, we’re keeping our storm supplies handy a little longer. Our thoughts are with all in the hurricane’s path, from Florida to North Carolina. A number of projections take Matthew on a loop de loop back into Florida and then who knows where. My message to Matthew: You can just loop de loop yourself right out to sea and then disappear forever.


Haunted New Orleans: Gallier Hall

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Throughout October, I’m going to take you on a spooky tour of some of the most haunted spots in New Orleans. It’s fitting that we should begin our tour in front of a building that served as New Orleans’ city hall from the 1850s to the 1950s. Gallier Hall is named for its architect, James Gallier. The building’s construction began in 1846, but money ran out just after the basement was completed. A roof was placed over the basement and the police department occupied the unfinished building while additional funds were raised. The building was finally completed and dedicated in 1853. Today Gallier Hall opens its doors to special events like weddings, corporate meetings, and Mardi Gras festivities. It’s also said to host its share of ghosts.

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During the Civil War occupation of New Orleans, Gallier Hall was used as a Federal headquarters. General Benjamin “The Beast” Butler, who commanded the force that captured New Orleans, served as the city’s administrator for the Union. He was one of the most disliked generals of the war, on both sides of the conflict. While commanding the city of New Orleans, he issued Order 28. The order, which drew criticism from the North and the South, stated that any New Orleans lady who showed contempt for a Union soldier would be treated as if she were a prostitute. Few women were arrested for violating the law (although one, accused of laughing when a Union soldier’s funeral procession passed her home, was confined to Ship Island off the coast of Mississippi for more than two months). Still, the law earned Butler the nickname “The Beast.” He was soon relieved of his New Orleans command, but some say that he still watches over the city from the front steps of Gallier Hall.

The ghost of “The Beast” isn’t alone at Gallier Hall. There are reports of another ghost who appears only during the annual Bacchus Mardi Gras parade. Parade goers in front of Gallier Hall have been known to run to police screaming that they have just witnessed a stabbing. When police investigate, they find no sign of a crime. Perhaps the frightened revelers have seen the ghost of a young man who was attacked and brutally stabbed in 1972 just steps from Gallier Hall. If you find yourself in front of Gallier Hall one day watching the Bacchus parade, remember . . . you’ve been warned.

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And now for a little footnote on my human daddy’s company Pet Supermodel Contest. My sister and I finished fourth and sixth, just out of medal contention. I had a firm grip on third place going into the final hours, but out of nowhere a cute little black lab blew right past me. We didn’t even win for best bling. My little sister, Tallulah Bee, and I cannot begin to thank each and every one of you enough for your support throughout the contest. You voted (and voted and voted again and again and again) and shared the fun through tweets and Facebook posts. Most importantly, you gave us so many words of encouragement. We may not have won the contest, but Tallulah Bee and I have the best friends in the world . . . and that’s way better than being a supermodel.