Through a wacky series of events, I had an experience a few weeks ago that left me speechless. Let me tell you the story of 30 years of activities that culminated into a single experience that confirmed that the path that I’m on is where I’m meant to be. Grab some popcorn and settle in for a good ol’ Cajun tale.
It’s no secret that I love arts & crafts, but I LOVE to sew – it’s likely my favorite crafty medium.
Because of my love of sewing, I’m a member of the American Sewing Guild (ASG) and as part of our Atlanta ASG Chapter, we’re affiliated with the Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance organization (SEFAA). SEFAA has some really excellent shows, classes and demonstrations and since I’m a group leader in ASG, I also get SEFAA emails. In February, SEFAA sent out an email that caught my eye – they listed an upcoming screening of the film “Coton Jaune: A Cajun love story” – I looked at the description of the documentary and watched the trailer and I and thought “Yeah, right. How can this Cajun tradition exist and I haven’t heard of this? I was born + raised in the HEART of Cajun Country and I’ve never heard Acadian Brown Cotton. Could something this important really exist and me not know about it?”, but something whispered in my soul “Desi – you should go.” So, I emailed a few friends, tried to drum up some folks to come with me (even other Cajuns that live in Atlanta) – no one responded. I was on my own.
Coton Jaune – a documentary about Acadian brown cotton
The day of the film screening came and since I’d paid my entry fee, I decided I’d go – what did I have to lose? I was still a bit skeptical about this tradition I’d never heard of, but I went with an open mind. I walked into the building, knowing no one, but seeing a group of knitters working on projects they’d brought with them. These were my people – I’d fit in with these folks — a sigh of relief. I must say that SEFAA folks are a very lively, friendly and creative bunch. Continue reading
I’m probably the only goofball that takes a vacation day from my full time “day job” so I can use that day to work on my business. Yes, you read that right – I took a day off of “work” to work.
However, this was a must attend event for me. I needed a kick in the pants to get fired up about The Creative Cajun and boy did I get it! The 2 day workshop featured lectures and small group coaching time with 4 very successful mentors. The event was named “2×4 Live” (2 days with 4 mentors). No, it’s not a piece of lumber – I know how you Cajun folks think…
2×4 Event 2016 Event Header
I’ve always been proud to be born & raised in Acadiana. This last week has illustrated just why I love my hometown.
When I heard about the shooting in Lafayette last Thursday, my heart sank. At first I was in denial, convinced that the breaking news I was reading on Twitter was a mistake. I started texting my family members to check on them. They were all okay, but I still couldn’t sleep. Acadiana will always hold a special place in my heart and that’s painfully evident during a tragic event.
This Louisiana prayer flag banner hangs in my soap studio. It was printed by Parish Ink and sold at Red Arrow Workshop. Jillian, one of the victims of last week’s shooting, was a co-founder of both of these businesses.
The first real experience of watching a place I dearly love suffer was during the 2005 hurricane season. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the coast along Louisiana & Mississippi in the span of a few weeks. Continue reading
Last night, tragedy struck the place where my heart lives – Lafayette, LA. When something like this happens in a place that you don’t know well, it’s easy to send prayers, support and keep moving on with your life. When it happens in a place where the majority of your family lives, where you have so many memories and where your heart lies, it’s a whole different experience.
The Acadiana Flag + LOVE
I remember grieving after my father died. I got the news around 3AM and I thought “Let me get some sleep and then I’ll drive to Lafayette.I’ll be thinking clearer in the morning. There’s nothing I can do at this point anyway.” (I lived in Baton Rouge at the time – about a 45 minute drive to Lafayette). I was physically ill all night from the grief. I couldn’t sleep. I felt like I was in a fog. When grief like this occurs, it’s amazing that you can feel that your whole world is falling apart and the rest of the world keeps turning. It’s mind boggling, but oddly reassuring at the same time.
For months and months after my father’s death, I’d try to sleep and wake up and think “Wow, I had this awful dream – that Poppa died of a heart attack” and then I’d realize that it was reality – it had actually happened. I’m having a similar experience tonight when trying to sleep. I keep waking up thinking this was all a bad dream. I wish it were – as so many do.
Tonight, I find myself recalling so many memories of the location of this senseless tragedy. The movie theater was once a GIANT supermarket called “The Real Superstore”. I remember how you’d have to deposit a quarter to get a grocery cart and that was a highlight of our trips there. I recall the store being HUGE and it seems like you’d get lost in there for days while shopping. It was an epic grocery shopping experience. That’s my most succinct description of the place. Continue reading
As I outlined in a previous post, I’m writing a series of blog posts about what being Cajun means to me – the traits typically found people who identify with the Cajun culture. In previous posts, I blogged about resourcefulness and our joie de vivre, the importance we place on family and our resilience. This week, I’d like to discuss our friendly nature.
Cajuns demonstrate their friendliness every day
For those of us who grew up in Acadiana, we understand how friendly and outgoing other Cajuns are – it’s not uncommon to make a friend while you’re standing in line at the grocery store. Hell, if you’re in line for hours at the DMV, you might just leave with a new best friend. You’ll likely have each other’s family history and discussed whether you know each other’s relatives. I’d imagine the conversation might go something like this:
“Mais chere – do you know that Hebert family from Abbeville? Well, that’s my first cousin, yeah.”
“Oh yeah? Well, we went to high school together and my best friend married his brother”
Yes, we are that friendly – pretty much all the time. Continue reading
Since moving away from Lafayette so many years ago, I’ve attended a number of weddings and it quickly became obvious to me that Cajun weddings are not “typical” – we have some traditions that other cultures don’t necessarily follow. To inform those not in the “know”, I thought I’d put together this handy guide about some things you may see or experience at a Cajun wedding
Our weddings are casual, fun and likely involve plenty of alcohol – and that’s just a start.
The chapel at Acadiana Village in Lafayette – a great venue for a wedding
1. There is no “dress code”
You may wear anything from jeans and cowboy boots to a suit if you wish. No one will look at you like you’re not dressed appropriately. No pretentious people here, that’s for sure.
2. Food is served buffet style
Cajun weddings have no assigned seating and serving of formal, plated dinners. The best part is that you get to choose what you want to eat from the buffet, when you want to eat it and go back for seconds if you’d like. No judgement.
Table decorations at a traditional Cajun wedding – simple, no seating or table assignments
3. No assigned seating and table assignments
Since the meals are served buffet style – there’s no assigned seating at tables. You can sit where you like and even change seats during the evening. There’s no forced conversations between people you hardly know and no fussing about who will sit at which table or having to create place cards for each guest. Continue reading
Last fall, when I was camping with my husband in Destin – we had the opportunity to pet an alligator. Now, don’t run off just yet – I was a total skeptic as well. Who in the HELL has a pet alligator?
Let me give you the backstory, first.
We were camping in Destin at Camp Gulf with some friends and family. Our family left to go home, but I wasn’t ready to leave. We decided to extend our stay a few days at the last minute. My friend Cindy came by our camper and said “Hey! We’re going to see Bubba – want to come? Desi, grab your camera. You’re going to want it”. I thought nothing of it and we happily put on our shoes and followed them to meet this Bubba guy.
We’re walking toward the activity center in the campground and my friend is going on and on about Bubba and how he’s never there when they’re staying there – he usually only comes to visit during the summer and the kids love him. So, I casually ask “So, who’s Bubba?” and she replies “He’s an alligator. A live gator that you can pet. The kids love ‘em!” I totally thought she was lying. Come on – is this for real?
Yes, Bubba is a real, live gator
So, we walk into the activity center and damn sure if she’s right. There’s a @#($@ gator sitting on the table. This guy is petting him and his daughter (who’s around 10 years old) is flitting here and there. She pets him – the gator is perfectly still. He’s going through his little spiel – talking about his habits, what he eats, how he plays with the dogs in their house. Seriously? This gator is like a pet. His stories were insane and I would have NEVER believed him if I hadn’t seen the gator for my own eyes. Continue reading
I’m always suspect of Cajun food served at restaurants outside of Cajun country. People have this warped sense that Cajun food should be doused with cayenne, cooked until it’s burnt and/or will contain things totally foreign to a Cajun dish.
For instance, we took a family member out to dinner one evening at a really nice restaurant in a swanky part of town. He and his wife were stuck at the airport one night, and they called us to see if we were free for dinner. The restaurant had gumbo on the menu. His wife is German, so she asked him what it was. He described it as having a tomato base and a soup-like consistency. I just about fell out of my chair. There aren’t tomatoes in gumbo! He looked at me and said “Well, honestly – what do you expect from this place” and I had to agree. We weren’t dining at a Cajun restaurant and while tomatoes are in some gumbos – that’s more of a creole style gumbo than a Cajun gumbo. Needless to say, I’m a bit picky when it comes to choosing where I’ll eat gumbo – because some people are simply clueless when it comes to Cajun food.
Adele’s beignets are delicious – best biegnets I’ve had in Atlanta.
These folks pass my “Authentic Cajun” seal of approval: Continue reading
As I’ve covered in a previous blog post, my father collected and restored antique cars. Yellow Bird (1922 Chevrolet) was always the constant in our family, but we also had various other cars that he owned throughout our youth. Another family tradition was that we gave the cars names. My mom’s brown station wagon was “Buckskin Bill”. It was just normal in our family to name the automobiles. I suppose we’re silly that way.
One of our other favorite antique cars was a 1954 Candy Apple Red Chevrolet Bel-Air. Her name was “Ruby Red”.
Ruby Red – the 1952 Bel-Air in all her glory
Ruby was a show stopper – but she was also heavy and slow. I suppose you could say she had some “junk in her trunk”. She was curvy and beautiful – typical for cars in the 1950’s era. Continue reading
A few years ago, I was in San Francisco for a work-related conference and my husband and I were looking for some new restaurants to try while we were in town. I love using Trip Advisor and Yelp when I travel to find new restaurants and attractions. On a whim, I thought “Let me see if there are any Cajun restaurants nearby”. Sure enough, we hit the jackpot. We discovered Brenda’s French Soul Food in the Tenderloin. We were staying near Union Square, which isn’t too far away from Brenda’s. After reading the reviews on Yelp about how packed the restaurant usually is for dinner, we decided to go for breakfast the following day.
The Tenderloin area can be a bit dicey, so we were careful navigating there. If you do visit the restaurant, just be aware of your surroundings and take a cab or public transit. I don’t recommend walking from Union Square.
We arrived and were delighted to see there was no wait for a table. The restaurant was moderately busy – it was a weekday and they were serving breakfast, so we didn’t expect the place to be packed. Immediately when we sat down and I saw the Steen’s syrup container on the table that held the silverware, I was taken back home.
Steen’s Syrup – a Louisiana favorite
I was home, in San Francisco. It felt strange, but it was homey and comforting. These were my people – they’d understand me. What a fantastic feeling. Continue reading