Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy Mardi Gras

This morning hundreds and thousands of people will line the streets of New Orleans to celebration Fat Tuesday, better known as Mardi Gras.

As a child, I can remember the excitement and anticipation this day would bring as our family headed out to the parade routes to watch the marching bands, beautiful costumes, and massive ornate floats as they'd pass by. As my daddy would securely hold me on his shoulders, I 'd holler out, "Throw me something, Mister!" in hopes that I'd catch a beautiful long strand of beads to proudly display around my neck.

King Cakes were also a big part of the Mardi Gras season and I can remember my mother making them from scratch. Memories of her pulling out this sweet sugary pastry from our double dutch oven still makes my mouth water.

In fact, my mother-in-law surprised us by shipping two King Cakes which arrived at our front door yesterday. I've been licking my fingers all morning, trying to keep cinnamon icing from getting all over my keyboard. Just one slice with a cup of coffee....oh, so good!

In honor of my dear friends and family who still live in New Orleans, I'd like to share the story of how King Cakes were originated.

The History of King Cakes

The King Cake is believed to have originated in France around the 12th century. These early Europeans celebrated the coming of the three wise men bearing gifts twelve days after Christmas calling it the Feast of the Epiphany, Twelfth Night, or King's Day. The main part of the celebration was the baking of a King's Cake to honor the three kings.

The cakes were made circular to portray the circular route used by the kings to get to the Christ Child, which was taken to confuse King Herod who was trying to follow the wise men so he could kill the Christ Child.

In these early King Cakes a bean, pea, or coin was hiding inside the cake. The person who got the hidden piece was declared king (or queen) for the day or was said to be blessed in the coming year. The bean or coin was eventually replaced with a small plastic baby to symbolize the Christ Child. The person who receives a piece of cake with the baby hidden inside is expected to carry on the carnival festivals by hosting the next King Cake party.

To order a King Cake or find out more, check out this video from Manny Randazzo's Bakery. People stand in line for blocks just to purchase one of their cakes!


Happy Mardi Gras, N'Awlins!!!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Calm My Anxious Heart

Have you ever felt anxious or unsettled but really didn't know why?

The other morning I woke up feeling this way. My to-do list was small, there were no major problems looming over me, and I had gotten plenty of rest the night before. But, I still felt so anxious inside. It was as if there was a car motor running inside of me that I couldn't turn off.

At first, I decided to ignore the feelings and just go about my day. But, as my day went on the "motor" kept running. My plan obviously wasn't working. So, I switched gears and decided to lay down for 15 minutes to rest and pray. As I did, it dawned on me that I hadn't exercised in days.

I normally go to the gym 3-4 times a week to keep my energy up and my waistline in check but lately I had slacked off. I had made excuses and it was starting to show.

For me, exercise not only keeps my scale happy but it also reduces my internal stress levels. With only 30 minutes of cardio, my body releases lots of "happy" chemicals called endorphins which leaves me feeling energized and stress-less.

It works for me and I bet it will work for you. Are you feeling anxious today and can't quite figure out why? Try taking a brisk walk with a friend or dust off your bike and go for a ride. If you belong to a local gym, take time to go. Make it a priority to exercise and take care of yourself. You'll be so glad you did!