Sunday, January 29, 2017

What is Mardi Gras?  

Its foundation is based upon Roman Catholic faith; a celebration and feast held the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent.  During Lent, the symbolic forty-day period leading up to Easter, Christians repent, exercise self-denial, and largely fast from meat.  Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, began as a day of feasting, where all meat, wine, and rich foods to be given up as a symbolic gestor for Lent, would be consumed.  As you can imagine, this was quite a celebration.

Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville portrait, unknown artist, source New Orleans Library

The celebration of Mardi Gras dates back centuries to Medieval times.   In 1699 it is rumored the practice arrived upon the shores of the US when French explorer, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville came ashore approximately 60 miles south of what is today, New Orleans, naming the place Pointe du Mardi Gras. It is recorded that the soldiers realizing their arrival was near Ash Wednesday, held a small celebration of Lent.

Fort Mobile 1702 illustrated b Nathan Glick photo credit Alabama department of archives

He later established Fort Louis de la Mobile, in Alabama where the first Mardi Gras was celebrated in 1703.  The Mystic Society; “Masque de la Mobile” established in 1704 is believed to be the first “Krewe”, or secret organization of people band together to form a Mardi Gras celebration.

George Schmidt Gallery

The parade began with a likeness of a bull’s head, placed upon a cart with wheels, then pushed by sixteen men upon the parade route. The symbolic bull’s head represented the fasting from meat during the forty days of Lent.  Eventually a live bull, draped in white, would lead the parade, escorted by Rex, the King.  Mobile is known for its lavish balls in celebration of Mardi Gras.  Men and women wear opulent dresses and tuxedos that include long adorned trains. In Mobile, the Mystic Societies are by invitation, and represent
Royal Float with Mardi Gras King Felix III and Queen of Mardi Gras, archival photo. (Silver gelatin print by Julian Lee Rayford, from the History Museum of Mobile)

New Orleans was established in 1718 by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville. Mardi Gras celebrations began with an elegant society ball in 1730.  The practice of the society balls continued until 1763 when Spain took over rule of Louisiana, and the Mardi Gras celebrations were banned. After the War of 1812, and Louisiana became a US State, the celebrations resumed. 

In the upcoming early years, New Orleans began to mark Mardi Gras with street parties, masquerade balls, and lavish feast.  In 1857 a group of businessmen, “The Mystic Krewe of Comus”, hosted a parade through the streets of New Orleans. The torch lite parade featured marching bands, floats, and people wearing their masquerade costumes for the ball.   In 1870 “Twelfth Night Revelers” hosted the parade that including the throwing of beads and trinkets to spectators. 

Photo credit oliaklodvenitiens 

The year of 1872 marked the first “King of Carnival Rex”, a group of New Orleans business men invited the Russian Grand Duke, Alexis Romanoff, to preside over the parade.  Purple, green and gold were introduced for the first time as the color theme for the parade, the colors of Romanoff’s family. Green represents faith, purple justice and gold power. 

Photo credit The History Channel

Galveston Island hosts the third largest Mardi Gras festivities in the US.  The origins of Galveston Mardi Gras date back to 1871.  In Galveston, there were two Krewe rivalries; “The Knights of Momus” abbreviated as “KOM”, and “The Knights of Myth”.  The KOM decorated torch lit horse drawn carriages, carrying couples in their masquerade ball attire, the parade made its way through town to Turner Hall, where the feast and ball took place. 

Photo Credit Turner Library of Congress

The Knights of Myth also hosted a parade featuring troch light carriages, there was an addition – automobiles, the parade took a different route through town and ended at Casino Hall where a lavish dinner and ball took place.  With this rivalry came the quest to create a more lavish parade. The 1872 parade ended at the Grand Opera house, where caged canaries decorated the fa├žade, and a lavish dinner and ball took place. 

Grand Opera House, Galveston, estimated 1885, photo credit P. H. Rose

The 1873 parade included Governor E. J. Davis, along with several members of his cabinet, the men were a feature of the parade, riding upon a float.  As years passed the parades became more elaborate.  A temporary break took place between the years of 1900 – 1917 after “The Great Storm”, a major hurricane that struck Galveston Island September 8th, 1900 leaving the island in ruins.  The “Kotton Karnival Kids” revived the Mardi Gras parade in 1917. The lavish balls with ladies and gentlemen dressed in finery was revived. Ladies gowns were embellished with embroidery, lace, sequins, and jewels, and often featured long trains.

Eva McDonald, Queen 1926. Photo Credit Rosenberg Library

Cecile Kempner Queen 1929. Photo credit Rosenberg Library

1941 when America entered WWII.  With America focused upon war efforts, Mardi Gras ceased. For the following forty years Mardi Gras was hosted privately, large parties at local Galveston Clubs became the tradition.

George and Cynthia Mitchell photo credit Dancie Ware

George and Cynthia Mitchell, who restored, and reopened the Tremont House hotel in 1984, celebrated the grand opening, with a citywide Mardi Gras celebration. A week of festivities including parades, events, and of course a lavish dinner and ball were organized. The following year the erection of Mardi Gras arches began upon Ship Mechanics Row, “Mechanic” Street. Today a single arch still stands at the Tremont House on Mechanic Street.   

photo credit

Each year the streets of the island are alive with visitors looking on as parades wander past; bands, floats, vintage automobiles,  and local celebrities make their way down the seawall, across Rosenberg Street, and in to downtown upon The Strand. 

Beads fly to the exhilaration of parade watchers, the sounds of horns and drums beat through the streets, and the celebration of Mardi Gras continues.

 laissez le bon temps rouler!

Until next time -

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Cottage Guest Bath  Styling

Guest baths can be tricky.  Hosting guest, you hope they'll feel comfortable, and have readily on hand items they may need.  There's nothing worse than finding yourself in a guest bath awkward situation, resorting to rummaging through cupboards searching for necessities. 

Our guest bath features the original claw foot tub and pedestal sink.  The space is new, an addition by the previous owner, who chose to reuse the original plumbing fixtures.  The antique fixtures provide history to the space.  To repeat a feeling of history, an antique lace table cloth is used to drape over the window blind.  The cloth adds a little romance. Walls are clad with dove grey subway tiles edged in tumbled travertine, floors are ceramic tile. 

 In our pasts lives, we haven't had a great deal of guests.  After moving to the Texas Coast, where the Galveston Port is home to several major cruise lines, we've enjoyed guests.  Hosting guest, we want them to be as comfortable as possible. 

A large sea grass basket holds towels next to the tub, providing guest with easy access. I happened upon a three tier metal piece, adorned with a birds.  This type tiered piece is often used for fruit display, serving, or perhaps or a table centerpiece. 

I chose to utilize the piece as display and offerings of toiletries for guest. Upon the three tiered piece are; shampoos, conditioners, shower and soap gels, cotton balls, cloths, and tissue rolls. Guest may easily find necessities, and feel free to enjoy them. 

Storage at Sybi is very, very, (Did I say very?), very limited.  My Grandmother's sewing cabinet offers storage for guest to organize their belongings. Mr. GDC added a shelf inside where additional toiletries may be found for guest use;  toothpaste and toothbrushes. The height of the cabinet offers a surface just below a plug for their convenience. The narrow cabinet allows storage without taking up too much space in the bathroom. Refinishing the cabinet in chalk paint, then sealed to protect, the sewing cabinet works well.  It seems I forget something every trip, no matter how hard I try!

A candle, and pot of fresh rosemary offer aroma therapy.  The candle is inserted in a larger cylinder leaving space for a decorative element.  The shells used as decoration were picked up along the beach while upon a walk.

Hooks are installed along the wall; two for towels, and one for clothes or a robe.

Finally a glass jar fitted with an airtight top offers lavender infused bath salts.  The claw foot tub is an amazing soaking tub; deep, and over six feet long, it's generous size offers guests a chance to relax, and soak away the beach.

I hope these ideas and repurposing of items help you reimagine your guest bath. 

Until next time, wishing you all the best -


Monday, January 2, 2017

Transitioning from Christmas to New Year's; 2017

Apologies, I hoped to have this posted yesterday.  It's been raining here, on the island, the light has not been ideal for photography.  Please excuse the bit of "blue", and the tardiness of this post. Perhaps you can take a little inspiration for the next new year. 

Transitioning from Christmas to New Year's can be a bit confusing.  Do you put the tree away, or embrace it for the New Year?  For us, I chose to edit the traditional Christmas decorations, add a few New Year's Eve style decorations and combine the two for a festive look.  We hosted a small party yesterday, during the day.  As we all get older, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to stay up long enough to ring in the new year!  Yesterday was a warm, and happy time with good friends, good food, and 2017.

New Year's Eve is a time of reminiscing for the year left behind, and looking forward to the year ahead.  Time, I chose to reference the concept of time by using numbers "2017", a countdown of 1 - 10, and copies of antique clock faces I found upon the internet. Using antique French book pages, I wrote in script "Happy", "New", "Year"; one word for each page, and added the words to our Christmas wreaths hanging center of various windows in the cottage.

The foyer; "Happy New Year" is added to the center of the three wreaths in the windows.

The draped table between the chairs is edited; adding numbers "2017" to the branches arranged in the blue and white porcelain ginger jar.  I deleted the candle, with gold glitter letters, and removed the black and white printed art "Joyeux Noel" from the frame. 

I added in the frame a bit of clip art, a champagne bottle and cork.   Christmas cards were also deleted from the antique shutter covered niche. 

I created word signs using my computer and card stock; "Auld", "Lang", "Synge" adding the words to the door niche by stringing them upon tiny black ribbon and pinning the ribbon to the top of the door frame, allowing the words to dance inside the door frame.  For the signs, I used Garamond font, at 300, and hole punched two holes at the top of each word to allow the ribbon to be looped through the word. 

I researched, then printed various clock faces upon card stock, cut them out and added the faces to our Christmas tree.  

I printed letters using my publishing software, spelling out the work "Happy".  I chose a simple method of Garamond font, in an over large scale of 300, printed upon card stock, then cut the letters into squares.  Once the squares were cut, I hole punched at the center of each letter to allow a 1" black satin ribbon to be threaded through the letters, creating a garland.  I tied the garland, with the wording "Happy" swaging it from the drapery rod above the tree.

Upon two separate antique book pages I wrote in script "New", and "Year" then tucked the pages in at the top of the tree, just under the garland "Happy". 

Repeating the antique French book pages, I cut one number from each page to represent the new upcoming year "2017".  I applied a hole punch at the center top of each number, ran a tiny black ribbon through it each and tied the numbers to the chandelier over the dining table, allowing the tangle the number.   Viewing the room the tree with the clocks, the message "Happy New Year", and the number "2017"; provide an inviting message to guests.

In the keeping room,  I kept the Auld Lang Syne theme playing with the words again on the antique French book pages, and adding numbers to the chandelier.

I added a clock face paired with moons to the center of the starburst mirror to repeat the time idea.

We recently added an antique daybed to the keeping room.  I made the cushions, pillows repeating our neutral color pallet.  One pillow is made from the same damask used on the dining room inside chair backs.  Repeating the fabrics ties the rooms together, in an open concept plan.

I'm experimenting in the keeping room.  We just added the daybed. I'm playing with a gallery wall concept featuring cemetery photos I took in NOLA.  I apologize for the photo.  The weather refuses to cooperate today.  I'll post more of this room as it comes together soon.

Wishing you all a happy 2017.  Thank you for stopping by from time to time to visit with me.  May your year be happy, healthy, and full of new adventures!