My Home Away From Home

Sometimes we’re fortunate to find a place we can call ‘Home’ even though we don’t live there.

A place that satisfies our deepest yearnings. That feels so comfortable and ‘right’ we can’t imagine not spending time there.

For me, that place is Gulfport, MS, nestled on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, midway between New Orleans and Mobile.

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Just What Constitutes Improper Dressing?

When we were in Gulfport, we stopped by a local UPS store to check how much it would cost to send my son a Mardi Gras King Cake.

Carnival season is extra-long this year, thanks to a late Easter, so the partying and frivolity kicked into high gear before we could make it back to Illinois. And no way was I going to let Domer miss out on something he loves so much (if I could’ve shipped Dallas, both my guys would’ve been thrilled, ha!)

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Throw Me Something, Mister!

We traveled to Gulfport, MS over My Favorite Domer’s month-long Christmas Break.

Visiting family, shopping, trying new restaurants, walking outside in warmer temperatures — all that sounded pretty good. Besides, Domer had to fly from there to Miami for the sorry lousy miserable National Championship slaughter game.

One fascinating difference between Central Illinois and the Mississippi Gulf Coast is their propensity to partay. Not that Illinoisans don’t like to have fun; just that we’re a bit tamer about it!

Anyway, as soon as New Year’s Day is over, folks down south bring out their Mardi Gras decor’ — and it’s especially obvious when Lent begins early as it does this year (Feb. 13).

It’s like they put Christmas back in the attic or storeroom and haul out Carnival.

Cool.

They bedeck their houses with purple, gold, and green garlands; hang lavish wreathes on their front doors; begin attending (and hosting) fancy formal parties; and some scramble for cheap plastic beads and other collectibles during a plethora of parades.

Of course, that’s easier there than here. After all, they don’t have snow on the ground!

Another thing that’s popular during Carnival season is the King Cake. This delicacy happens to be one of Domer’s favorites, and his grandmother never fails to make sure he gets one.

This year was no exception.

And guess who else happens to love cake? Any cake, not just the King variety?

Dallas! Witness his patience while Domer partakes of a hefty slice:

Please? Can I have a taste??

Please? Can I have a taste??

Laissez les bons temps rouler!!

It’s less than three weeks away now!

Of course, I’m referring to Mardi Gras (AKA Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday).

Last year, I blogged about King Cakes, one of the many traditions surrounding this day of feasting and celebration before the somber 40-day period called Lent. Today, I’m going to talk about the colors of Mardi Gras.

Now you might consider it odd that a person living in Central Illinois, U.S.A., would be so enthralled with a season far removed by distance, but I lived many years along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where Mardi Gras is celebrated, Big Time!

Right after Jan. 6 (Feast of the Epiphany), Carnival Season gets underway. Kings, Queens, and Parade Marshals are announced, individual krewe themes are revealed, and the partying begins.

There are parades featuring decorated floats, live bands, and plenty of beads and doubloons for everybody; there are formal balls (I’m talking tux and ball gown formal!) for invited members and guests; there are more traditions than you can shake a stick at.

Even the colors of Mardi Gras are traditional. Back in 1872, Carnival King Rex selected Purple (symbolizing justice), Green (faith), and Gold (power) as colors for the festivities, and they stuck.

Oddly enough, it was the colors of Mardi Gras that influenced the selection of colors for two of Louisiana’s then-rival universities. According to the SEC Sports Fan Website, the folks from Louisiana State University originally had blue and white as their school colors, but, hoping to celebrate their first football game against Tulane University, they wanted a change.

Some of the guys and their coach went into New Orleans to find colored ribbon to brighten up their gray jerseys. It being just a few months before Mardi Gras season, all they could find were purple and gold cloths (the green had yet to be delivered).

LSU picked up the purple and gold to make rosettes and badges, leaving Tulane to purchase the green when it finally arrived. This they combined with blue to arrive at their school colors.

Curious about my headline? It’s a Cajun expression meaning, “Let the good times roll!”

Bon Mardi Gras!

My Favorite Domer called last night to announce the Mardi Gras King Cake his grandmother had overnighted him arrived in splendid condition and was a big hit!

Now for those unaware of the tradition, a King Cake actually started in Western Europe before Christianity took hold. Eventually, it morphed into a celebration of the Magi and was brought to Louisiana by French settlers in the 18th century.

The cake features an oval shape and tastes like coffee cake or a cinnamon roll — with lots of sugar!

Bakers take the dough, roll it out, maybe braid it, then twist the ends together. Sometimes they add blueberries, apples, or cream cheese as fillings. They then decorate the top with table sugar in Mardi Gras’s traditional colors of gold (power), purple (justice), and green (faith). Some cakes feature glazed icing on top as well.

Double sugar!

Now it wouldn’t be a true King Cake if it didn’t have a tiny plastic baby inside (Magi, Baby Jesus — get it?)

Usually, bakers place this inch-long baby near the twisted-together ends, and tradition holds that the person getting a piece of cake with the baby inside is the one “crowned” king or queen for the day and must host the next King Cake party the following week.

King Cakes are never served outside of Carnival Season, which runs from Twelfth Night (the Feast of the Epiphany, 12 days after Christmas) through Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday, the day before Christians observe Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent).

Hundreds of thousands of King Cakes are consumed during this five- or six-week period in New Orleans alone! And that doesn’t include the number of cakes shipped throughout the country for displaced sons and daughters of the Big Easy (or those just wanting to get in on the revelry!)

I can’t imagine anyone wanting to bake King Cakes themselves, not when there are so many bakeries proficient at making them, but for those seeking a new challenge, here’s one to try.

Good luck and Happy Mardi Gras!