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Mardi Gras

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Fat Tuesday is what it means in English. It’s the last day for some Christians to eat all the food they like and party before the season of fasting before Easter, Lent. In many traditions it isn’t just one day. Mardi Gras, or Carnival season, starts in January after 12th Night or the Epiphany, culminating at midnight on the day before Ash Wednesday. English traditions call the day Shrove Tuesday and for many religious Christians a time for confession. Celebrations vary from city to city and by country but many of the traditions are the same masks, beads, parades and parties. In Mobile, Alabama,the former capital of New France, the Mardi Gras social events start in November with “mystic society” balls on Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve with more parades and balls in January and February ending on the traditional Tuesday before Lent. And you thought New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro were the party cities, heh. Many if these balls raise large amounts of money for charity, justifying in a way the “decadence”. In other places with a French heritage, like Louisiana, where the revelry also starts weeks before with parades and parties celebrating the arrival of the “Krewes” or organizations that sponsor various parades, the day is an official holiday. Like anyone in New Orleans is going to the office that day. There’s many traditional foods, too, like pancakes, fruit laden sweet breads and sugary pastries. Any food with lots of fat and eggs. Look out arteries here it comes.

A Little History

Mardi Gras was introduced to America in colonial days as a sedate religious tradition by Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, in the late 17th century, when King Louis XIV sent the pair to defend France’s claim on the territory of Louisiane.

The expedition, led by Iberville, entered the mouth of the Mississippi River on the evening of March 2, 1699, Lundi Gras, not yet knowing it was the river explored and claimed for France by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle in 1683. The party proceeded upstream to a place on the west bank about 60 miles downriver from where New Orleans is today, where a small tributary emptied into the great river, and made camp. This was on March 3, 1699, Mardi Gras day, so in honor of this holiday, Iberville named the spot Point du Mardi Gras (French: “Mardi Gras Point”) and called the small tributary Bayou Mardi Gras. Bienville went on to found Mobile, Alabama in 1702 as the first capital of French Louisiana. In 1703 French settlers in that city began to celebrate the Mardi Gras tradition. By 1720, Biloxi was made capital of Louisiana. While it had French settlers, Mardi Gras and other customs were celebrated with more fanfare given its new status. In 1723, the capital of French Louisiana was moved to New Orleans, founded in 1718. With the growth of New Orleans as a city and the creolization of different cultures, the varied celebration of Mardi Gras became the event most strongly associated with the city. In more recent times, several U.S. cities without a French Catholic heritage have instituted the celebration of Mardi Gras, which sometimes emerged as grassroots movements.

I mentioned traditional food and no traditional Mardi Gras celebration would be without a King Cake. This cake is actually a sweetened yeast bread, usually baked in a ring shape. The cake is frosted with gold, green, and purple icing representing in order, power, faith, and justice. The traditional colors on the King Cake date back to 1872 and were taken from a prominent parade group, called a krewe. Although this cake is colorful and tasty, the real fun hides within the cake.

The maker of each King Cake hides a token in the cake. The tokens used are a dried red bean or a figurine of a baby, representing the Christ child. When the cake is cut and shared, the finder of the hidden treasure is said to enjoy good luck for the coming year. The lucky recipient may also be expected to bake the King Cake or throw the Mardi Gras party for the following year.

As they say in New Orleans, Laissez les bon temps rouler, or Let the good times roll!

Open Thead: Facts Are Stubborn Things

Rachel Maddow spoke about correcting errors, “Department of Corrections”. She also spoke about “facts”, not necessarily liking them because they make us uncomfortable and being factual, debunking news that is widely believed as true. More importantly, Rachel discussed being magnanimous enough to correct a mistake, because “it’s a responsible and useful thing to do.”

Facts are Stubborn Things

Rachel Maddow discusses the shows policy of correcting its errors and demonstrates why she is owed one by Politifact.com

It is a neat idea to be able to call balls and strikes in facts and news, to fact check things you hear in the news and fact-check things you hear politicians and political figures say.  People do get stuff wrong and it should be pointed out.  When I confused the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in terms of which one had a preamble, you may recall that I not only apologized for that.  I sung and danced my apology to that.

When you get something wrong, it is both good practice and I find satisfying to own up to it.  Say you got it wrong, learn something about it, and move on.  But that should apply to everybody. . . . . .

Calling somebody a liar when they are not lying is not the same as fact-checking.  That is just bullpuckey, too.

Entire transcript can be read at the her blog. It was the last segment from February 24.

An Invite to the Oscar Party

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I need a break from reality, at least for a few hours. The chance to sit in front of the big tube with a drink and a bowl of popcorn or other finger food and watch the glitz and glamor as the Stars walk down the red carpet and make fools of themselves bumbling the lines of acceptance speeches.

Tomorrow night at The Stars Hollow Gazette, I will be hosting a live blog of the 83rd Academy Awards starting at 7:00 PM EST when the march of celebrities in to the Kodak Theater. (yeah, I know I said I needed a break from reality but who said a blog was reality?). I haven’t seen any of these movies. If it weren’t for all the hype about a few of them, I couldn’t even tell you the plot. The hosts this year will be Anne Hathaway, the youngest host in the history of the Oscars, and James Franco, a Best Actor nominee for his tour de force in 127 Hours.

Some folks make this show like the Super Bowl with special drinks and food. Some go for simple, while some just go all out for exotic drinks and fancy food. The fanciest I get is an extra olive in my martini and maybe some fresh grated Parmesan cheese on my popcorn. So for chuckles here are some of the more exotic drinks in honor of some of the nominees and a few recipes for nibbles to munch as you watch.

The Natalie Portman

This is quite ambitious but looked so pretty in the glass. My experience with some of these types of drinks is, Look, Don’t Drink.

Named for the best actress nominee (for “Black Swan”) and created by Eamon Rockey of  Compose.

Beforehand, chill red wine that’s been sweetened  slightly with sugar (about a tablespoon per half cup of wine) and steeped with  lemon peels.

Next, combine one and a half ounces of Brooklyn gin,  three-quarters of an ounce of lemon juice, a half-ounce of triple sec, a  quarter ounce of gum syrup and an egg white.

Shake and strain into a cocktail  glass.  Using a funnel, pour the red wine into the bottom of the  glass so it forms a deep layer of color.

Mist the top of the cocktail with  absinthe (if you don’t have a spare mister, drizzle a few  drops of absinthe) and garnish with a few dashes of Angostura bitters.


The James Franco is another ambitious cocktail that requires a lot of pre-prep. However, It was amusing that the drink is kept shilled with a chunk of frozen rock.

The  Helena Bonham Carter goes for the simple. It starts out with a chilled glass that has been rinsed with absinthe, then the absinthe is discarded. I know where it can be “discraded”. Never waste absinthe.

Here some really tasty recipes for appetizers that are fairly simple, can be made ahead and some only take about 20 minutes to prepare.

These would not last 5 minutes in my house

Cheese Straws With Pimentón

These eggs required hot smoked paprika which I found inmy local Stop ‘n Shop

Smoky Red Devil Eggs

Make this dip a day ahead

Greek Goddess Dip

For something warm and spicy, this is great. Worth the extra time but can be madea head and reheated under the broiler

Queso Fundido With Chorizo, Jalapeño and Cilantro

Another one that wouldn’t last in my house. If you like shumai, double this

Shrimp and Cilantro Shu Mai

This would be a great brunch recipe, too

Toasts With Egg and Bacon

An Asian twist on Swedish meatballs

Scallion Meatballs With Soy-Ginger Glaze

OpenThread: Changes

It’s Spring! Well, not quite and from the weather forecast here in the Northeast, not for few more weeks. Thoughts are starting to turn to gardening and seed catalogs, spring cleaning and, oh yes, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter. I get the urge to change things, do something innovative, different. Like redecorating, new curtains, a fresh coat of paint, nothing drastic, just refreshing. OK. Have I buttered you up?

A friend sent me a picture the other day reminding me that it is the Chinese Year of the Rabbit and the campaign to Save the Tiger.


I got laughing at that picture and thought it would be kind of cute at the bottom of the page instead of the tiger that’s there now. Then I did some more thinking, (I get into trouble when I think too much), that image could be changed every now and then, perhaps with images, like the “eyes” in the banner that were created by OPOL. Since this is a community and your input is important here, I decided to ask your opinion and if anyone had any other ideas about changes they would like to see or resurrected.

What’s your choice for bottom page home link image?

Super Bowl XLV Open Thread: The Packers and the Steelers

The Green Bay Packers: Cheese Heads of the People

Rachel reports in how the history and financing of the Green Bay Packers makes it a unique team.

The Steelers Have Already Lost

by Howard Fineman

WASHINGTON — As a Pittsburgh native it pains me to say this but here goes: Even if the Steelers win the Super Bowl, they’ve already lost.

Fate, fashion and their own faults combine to put the Steelers in a no-win situation in Sunday’s matchup with the Green Bay Packers.

The Steelers are the bad guys. There is nothing they can do about it. If they win, it’s because they are rotten and brutal, or so it will be said. If they lose, they will have deserved it, because they are rotten and brutal, or so it will be said.

Why? Well, let’s start where we must, with Big Ben. His actions last year in that Georgia college town — even though they didn’t result in criminal charges — are too awful for most of the country, and (still) for many people in Pittsburgh, to stomach. Where diehard Steelers fans see a brave quarterback, millions of others see a cowardly, spoiled kid who used his posse to assist his sexual predations.

There is some more Super Bowl Fun that will be taking place at The Stars Hollow Gazette:

Not Watching the Hype which is for your alternative viewing pleasure if you’re not a football fan at 5:45 am

Fun with puppies and pooties continues with Puppy Bowl VII (with Bissell Kitty Halftime Show) at 2:45 pm

An the Grand Finale starts at 5:45 pm when the live blog of the Super Bowl XLV: Steelers v. Packers begins.

Imbolc: First Light in the Dark of Winter

Although you’d never know it if you looked out your window here in the Northeast and throughout a good part of the northern hemisphere, we are nearing the midpoint between winter solstice and the vernal equinox. The Sun is noticeably rising earlier and setting later. It is a pleasure to take my early morning shower in daylight and start dinner preparation with daylight still illuminating the kitchen. There are seed catalogs arriving in the mail which has me contemplating the flower beds, the herb garden and maybe this year some vegetables.

In the traditions of Pagan and Wiccan religions, we celebrate this changing season as Imbolc, or Candlemas, which begins on January 31st, February Eve, and ends on February 2nd, a time of rebirth and healing. Imbolc is one of the eight Wiccan Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year, one of the four cross-quarter fire festivals. Brighid, the patroness of poetry and healing, is the Pagan Goddess associated with Imbolc.

Some of the traditions are the lighting of fires, decorating with red and white symbolizing the snow and the rising sun and green for new growth. Candles are lit in all the rooms of the house. Fires places and hearths are cleaned out of ashes and fires are lit. Since there is still snow drifts in my backyard, the fireplace will be just fine.

The symbols are ewes and lambs since Imbolc is derived from a Celtic word, “oimelc”, meaning ewe’s milk. Many of the foods that are serves are lamb, cheese, poppyseed muffins, cakes and breads. Dishes are seasoned with bay leaves and dried basil.

In rural places where farming is still a way of life, ploughs are decorated with flowers and then doused with whiskey. I know most of us have better things to do with whiskey. Sometimes the plough is dragged from door to door by costumed children asking for food and money, a kind of wintry “trick or treat”. Some traditional gifts, if your going to a friends house to celebrate, are garden tools, seeds and bulbs.

The Maiden is also honored as the “Bride” on this Sabbat. Straw corn dollies are created from oat or wheat straw and placed in baskets with white flower bedding. The older women make special acorn wands for the dollies to hold. The wands are sometimes burned in the fireplace and in the morning, the ashes in the hearth are examined to see if the magic wands left marks as a good omen. A new corn broom is place by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming the new.

Non-Pagans celebrate February 2nd as Ground Hog’s Day, a day to predict the coming weather, telling us that if the Groundhog sees his shadow, there will be ‘six more weeks’ of bad weather. It actually has ancient roots, weather divination was common to Imbolc, and the weather of early February was long held to be a harbinger of spring. On Imbolc, the crone Cailleach‘s grip of winter begins to loosen. She goes forth in search of kindling so that she may keep her fires burning and extend the winter a little longer. If Imbolc is rainy and cloudy, she will find nothing but twigs unsuitable for burning and will be unable to prolong the winter. If the day is dry and kindling is abundant, she will have plenty of fuel to feed her fire and prolong the cold of winter. Spring will be very far away. As an old British rhyme tells us that, “If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.”

Whatever you celebrate or believe, let us all hope that that the local groundhog doesn’t see his shadow and there is only one winter this year. I have nowhere else to pile the snow.

Blessed Be.

Open Thread: What Circles So Perfectly

From a Friend

Docudharma 2.0: Who We Are

It’s has been two weeks and we are moving along. I want to thank everyone for all your essays and comments. There is a lot of discussion behind the “curtain” about how we are going to move Docudharma into the future and I’ll tell you about those plans and ideas as they become more solid. Right now, I want to introduce your admins.

I hold the “keys”, that is, the domain and the Soapblox account but that just means I keep the place running and make sure the bills are paid. You’ll notice the donations pot is still there. 😉

I’m a busy lady. Beside DD and The Stars Hollow Gazette, I am actively involved with an international NGO, Emergency Medicine and a family which consumes a great deal of my time. That means I need a “staff”.

ek hornbeck is “managing editor”. It is his responsibility to do promotions to the Front Page. That is a lot more work than you would think and ek has been the “glue” that held this place together since its inception. He is also my partner at Stars Hollow. He and I consult with each other closely about this and the other admins also have input and suggestions. There is no set policy on which essays get promoted but we look for quality and content.  

My other partner is Edger. He’s the tech guy who answers my dumb questions and keeps the “engine running” plus if it weren’t for his support DD might not be here. We discuss a lot about how the site looks and functions, as well as how we can improve on it. He is also closely involved in our future plans. His blog, Antemedius, is one of the best collaborative sites I have encountered in my years of blogging.

Robyn and mishima are integral to this site for their devoted contributions and dedication. They have been here forever and have my deepest thanks for the art, insight, and information. The “Muse in the Morning” and “Six in the Morning” are among my “must reads” in the AM. Mishima‘s weekly “Random Japan” with the news about Japanese life and culture and the daily “Late Night Karaoke” are mainstays, as are Robyn’s Friday evening essays on GLBT issues. They are representative of the diversity and openness of this community.

Every contributor, commenter and “lurker” are part of my “staff”, too. This site would be nothing without all of you. You are the “flesh and bones”, the “heart and soul” of Docudharma as it moves into the future.  

Good Morning and Welcome to Docudharma 2.0

I imagine many of you have been wondering what’s been happening and who was going to take the reins from buhdydharma. Wonder no longer. It’s me.

I’ll have help since managing two web sites is quite time consuming and I have a three dimensional life that demands attention once in a while. I’ll be pretty much in the background, relying on all the wonderful diaries that you write.

Everything here will remain pretty much the same. The name, banner and FAQ will not change. In other words

Passion, politics, poetry, prose and ponies. Silliness, snark and a serious effort to frame the future. A river of words, thought, philosophy and action that nourishes and transforms the political cultural and social landscape through which it passes. That is the spirit behind this “place”.

In practice…write whatever the hell you want! There are no rigid restrictions here, it is a salon and a laboratory and a place to create a new reality. A reality based on compassion, empathy and caring for the people and the planet, while acknowledging the harsh realities of the world we live in and the difficulty of the tasks ahead. The complexities of greed, corruption and the petty politics of ‘human nature’ in the face of climate crisis and seven billion souls…will not be overcome by black and white solutions or electoral processes, but by becoming the change we wish to see and helping others to do the same. Not through top down enforcement, but through people working together, a model of cooperation, not competition.

In other words…Hey Kids! Let’s put on an evolution! This is a place for each of us to do our 1/seven billionth of that together, and hopefully speed the process of change along through a synergy of our ideas, intentions and actions. Now let’s get out there and change the world!

by buhdydharma

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