Friday, February 17, 2012

Mardi Gras Party Drink Recipes

Having spent the last few weeks promoting Mardi Gras parties, we decided to share some of our favorite New Orleans drink recipes. In our last blog post, we shared great recipes for pralines and gumbo. To go along with those dishes, or perhaps with some classic New Orleans-style red beans and rice, we've put together some drink recipes that are well known by city residents and visitors alike (and meant only for those over 21).

New Orleans Hurricane
1 oz white rum
1 oz Jamaican dark rum
1 oz Bacardi® 151 rum
3 oz orange juice
3 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
1/2 oz grenadine syrup
crushed ice
Directions: Combine ingredients and mix well. Pour over crushed ice in hurricane glass and garnish with fruit.

Bloody Mary
1.5 oz vodka (remove vodka for a still-tasty virgin version if you’re under 21)
.25 oz lemon juice
2 dashes of Worcestershire
4 dashes of Tabasco
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
4 oz tomato juice
Directions: Add the liquid ingredients to a highball glass over ice cubes and mix well. Add the seasonings to taste, and garnish with lemon and/or lime wedge and celery stalk. You can also add olives, spicy pickled green beans, pearl onions—the sky’s the limit when it comes to Bloody Mary garnishes in New Orleans!

Make and enjoy! What are your favorite New Orleans drinks?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Welcome Home Sharon Taylor Rachal!

As the resident Welcome Home Party Planner and an AmeriCorps member, my favorite part about working at SBP is meeting the homeowners we serve. I can’t think of a homeowner who has faced more tragedies on the journey to return home than Sharon Taylor-Rachal. Since Katrina, she lost not only her home, but also her husband--and at one point, she was told she wouldn’t walk again after an injury.

I was deeply saddened when I first heard her story. Then, I met Sharon. Her smile lights up any room and she approaches life with such joy and gratitude. Her resiliency truly amazes me, and her determination is inspiring.

At her Welcome Home Party, it was clear that Sharon’s home would be filled with family, love, and celebrations for years to come. Her beautiful new home was bursting with family and neighbors, and of course no party in New Orleans would be complete without a giant pot of gumbo. And wow! Can Sharon cook! Her pralines are probably the best I’ve had in New Orleans. It wasn’t the food that made this party special, though--it was the generosity, gratitude, and love that were genuinely expressed by all.

The family friend who recommended SBP to Sharon's cousin, who passed the word on to Sharon, joined us for the party--but it was actually the first time the two women met. Sharon greeted the woman with a big, warm hug as she entered the room and said that without her none of this would have been possible.

It always amazes me how all the small actions (or big actions) of people can positively change someone’s life – the volunteers who dedicated time, United Way, Days of Our Lives, and Smucker’s who invested in this family, and the crew of 21 Jump St that helped furnish Sharon’s new home. Leaving the party, I felt lucky to share this joyous moment of celebration with Sharon and her family.

With Mardi Gras approaching, I hope you think of FAMILIES in New Orleans, the homemade gumbo, the homemade pralines (right), and the gratitude of the people’s lives you have impacted as part of the SBP Krewe.

Share in the joy of Mardi Gras and bring families and friends together. This praline recipe is as good an excuse as any to bring people together to celebrate. Just add some delicious gumbo from the New Orleans restaurant Zoe, and you’ll have a great party of your own.

Want more tips for your party? As the SBP resident party planner (okay, and fundraiser), myself and my hardworking co-workers put together this awesome toolkit of ideas just for you.

Thank you!
--Angie, SBP AmeriCorps member and Development Coordinator

P.S. By the way, I think it’s totally appropriate to host a Mardi Gras Themed party any time of year-especially if you aren’t in New Orleans.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mardi Gras Memories

With less than two weeks to go before Mardi Gras, we decided to ask our homeowners and staff members for their favorite Carnival memories. Well, specifically, I have been asked to gather Mardi Gras memories. And by “I,” I mean Sam, the grant writer – pleased to meet you.

You may be surprised to learn that this task is actually rather difficult. There are two reasons for this: either people don’t remember their favorite Mardi Gras memory (for one reason or another) or there are too many. Primarily, the latter. Not being a New Orleanian myself, I decided to just ask people, “What is your favorite Mardi Gras memory?” The universal response was a meaningful stare: Did you really just ask that question? Do you actually expect me to choose just one?

Well, with some trying, I did get a few answers.

Cynthia Dellavalle (Homeowner, left), a native New Orleanian, has been attending Mardi Gras ever since she was a child and would ride on the floats. For years she and her family have gone to the Endymion and Bacchus parades, staking out the same area near the parades’ ends so that they could collect from the riders who hadn’t distributed all their handouts. She would always take her children to their favorite events, but “Mardi Gras day is just for me.” For four years she continued visiting Mardi Gras even when she lived hours away in Mississippi. Having just moved back to St. Bernard Parish, she says, “The meaning [of Mardi Gras] has changed. It means home, now.”

Adrian (Site Supervisor / Office Man): “There are too many. My family’s from New Orleans. But my favorite memory is that one Mardi Gras my friends and I were at a parade where one float was throwing gigantic stuffed animals. They were these gaudy, sparkly, fuzzy things. My friends and I stood on the curb waving our arms shouting, ‘Hey Mister! Throw me a fuzzy creature!’ We didn’t get one, but we were so close. It’s still a good memory.”

Sarah (Social Media Guru): “It's hard to decide which Mardi Gras season was my favorite--but I don't think I've ever been in a place full of happier people than when Drew Brees paraded as king of Bacchus one week after the Saints won the Super Bowl. The happiness of the crowds that night was unbelievable, and I'm so glad I was able to be a part of such a great celebration--even if I didn't get one of the mini footballs Drew was throwing from the float.”

Ashley (Front Desk Coordinator, aka the Woman Who Makes Everything Work): Ashley grew up in Uptown, just a block away from the parade routes. Every Mardi Gras she and her family would set up a tent on the neutral ground (the median) to watch the events. Growing up, she says, “My biggest dream was to be a baton twirler,” because her mother had been a fire twirler. She made her dream come true by serving as captain of the Majorette’s at McDonogh High School.

My first Mardi Gras memory? I grew up in Iowa. My first Mardi Gras memory is envy.

What are your favorite Mardi Gras memories? Share them here or share them with us on Monday night, February 13 from 6-9 pm at an SBP happy hour event at Irish House on St Charles Avenue!


Monday, February 6, 2012

Join Our Krewe

In case you didn’t know, we’re in Carnival Season. We have, once again, all arrived safely at the best time of the year. It is your task, now, to survive until March. If you pull that off, we’re fairly certain that New Orleans itself will take care of the entertainment. If you are not in New Orleans, we encourage you to carry on as if you were—read on for ideas how to do so.

St. Bernard Project is wholeheartedly participating in this patently New Orleans celebration. Thus…

We invite you to Join Our Krewe.

But what, oh wise SBP blog, does that mean? We’re very glad you asked (or, that you’re still reading). There are three (3) ways you can Join Our Krewe.

1) Throw a Mardi Gras Party
If you’re not in New Orleans, this is the part where you bring New Orleans to your neighborhood. Yes, we want you to throw a party. Invite all your friends. Depending on the nature of the party, invite your family.

Keep an eye on our blog for New Orleanian food and drink recipes to add the necessary Crescent City spice to your Mardi Gras Party. Over the next couple weeks the staff will be posting their favorite local food and drink recipes, along with stories from our homeowners about favorite Mardi Gras memories.

And, while you’re having a great time, fundraise for SBP to bring struggling families home. It’s that easy – throw a party and do a great service at the same time. Tell guests you’re committed to raising money for SBP and having a good time. You could even approach a local restaurant owner about throwing a fundraising party at their establishment—raise money to bring families home and get a business kick with a party. Everyone wins.

Like the idea? We thought you would. We’ll be posting more about this over the next few weeks, and in the meantime check out our website for more Mardi Gras fundraising information, or email for tips.

2) Volunteer in the Big Easy
The party doesn’t end with Mardi Gras for SBP. Spring Break season is almost here. Hosts of volunteers from across the country will arrive to support SBP and rebuild the Most Unique City in America. And we want you to be there.

From now until the end of June, SBP will work at maximum capacity, building more houses faster and thus bringing more families home. But we can only do that if you come down and volunteer—register here.

3) “Throw Me Something, Mister!” (i.e. Donate)
A tip if you’re new to Mardi Gras traditions – especially if you happen to find yourself unexpectedly at a parade: if you want a throw from a float rider, look them in the eye and shout, “Throw me something, mister!”

That said, throw us something, mister!

SBP relies on volunteers to rehabilitate houses, and we couldn’t do it without you. But we need donations, too. Imagine coming to volunteer on a site with no nails? How many houses could we build without lumber? What if we didn’t have insulation? Drywall? Hammers? Pipes? How about Gatorade?

Please, if you are opposed to parties and cannot stop by to volunteer, throw us something. $5, $10, $25, $50, $100, whatever you can.

One of our homeowners, Cindy Dellavalle (below), recently moved home with volunteer support and donations from around the world. For years after Katrina she lived in Mississippi. Every year she made an hours-long pilgrimage to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras.

Now that she’s home, Cindy says, “[Mardi Gras] means something different, now. It means home…”

Help more New Orleanians celebrate their city’s festival at home by donating.

Thank you all! Happy Carnival!