Upcycling Trees And Thinking Mardi Gras

Two things to be thinking of right now:

If you celebrate Christmas and use a live tree, before putting it on the curb, if you’ve considered making your own bottle tree, you’re ready to go.

Ornaments are easy to find now for at least 50% off — look for regular unadorned round globes in two or three different sizes, in green, purple, and gold.  Here are the instructions — it’s easy to make and even though this one was made in 2008, it still looks perfect!

Galette des Rois

Since it’s Mardi Gras (happy Mardi Gras!!), I figured I would take this opportunity (the last one this year) to make a Galette des Rois, which is French for ‘King Cake’ (they’re served as part of tradition for people who celebrate the Feast of Epiphany, which is on January 6th each year).

Here are the ingredients:

1/8 cup almond paste
1/8 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter
dash of salt
splash of vanilla extract
splash of almond extract
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp flour
1 package puff pastry sheets, defrosted in the refrigerator at least 2 or 3 hours
A bean, if you like (see note below)

**Note: if you like, you can put a dried bean in the galette, as is custom. You don’t have to, but if you want to, it’s a nice touch. Let anyone that enjoys it know that the bean is *somewhere* inside, and that whoever finds it is king!

Preheat the oven to 450*. Get out a bowl or small plate to use as a template, and also fix a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Mix together the almond paste, sugar, butter, and salt until it’s completely smooth – then add half the beaten egg and both extracts.

Keep mixing until it’s all very smooth and worked through.

Add the flour and mix until incorporated, but not much longer than that.

Take the puff pastry out and unfold onto a floured surface. Take a regular-size bowl or small plate and trace around it with a sharp knife:

Galette des Rois

…do that twice, so you have two circles of puff pastry the same size:

Galette des Rois

Put the first circle on a baking sheet that’s been lined with parchment paper and put in the refrigerator while you work on the other circle. Take a sharp knife and make a pretty design in the pastry. You’ll also want to make some slits in the pastry to allow steam to escape. I made this sunburst design, but you can really do whatever you like:

Galette des Rois

Brush the top of this circle with some of the beaten egg that’s left:

Galette des Rois

Take the bottom circle back out of the refrigerator, and with a spoon or brush, put plenty of beaten egg around the outside rim. Leave plenty of room for the filling:

Galette des Rois

Now, mound the almond filling mixture right in the middle of that bottom circle (if you’re adding a bean, now’s the time to put it into the filling):

Galette des Rois

Put the top circle atop the bottom one, and sort-of pinch and press together the outside of both circles so they join well:

Galette des Rois

Next, place it in the oven (450*) for about 12-15 minutes. Because of the egg wash, it will turn a really nice shade of brown. Just be careful that it not get too brown too quickly:

Galette des Rois

It really turned out nice! Yum!

Galette des Rois

Decorating For Mardi Gras

Yay! It’s time to decorate for Mardi Gras! The first thing I started with was making a Mardi Gras feather wreath for the front door:

I took a large wire wreath-form (there weren’t any styrofoam ones at Hobby Lobby this big), two mardi gras feather boas, some floral wrapping tape, and some clear string to make it. Scissors too.

First, I wrapped the wire form with green floral tape. This is the tape that has adhesive ‘activated’ when you tug on it just a bit. I wanted to use this to make a solid color underneath the boas – it took all of about five or six minutes (and less than one roll of tape) to get this all wrapped up.

The first boa goes around and around the wreath form. I used clear jewelry string to secure it to the form, and when I got to the end of the first boa, I tied that end to the form, and tied the start of the next boa to the form *and* the end of the first boa to make sure it was really secure. Once the wreath was complete, I cut off most of the white string that wasn’t used to make sure it wouldn’t show.

Next, I hung it on the door and added beads. I added one huge string and lots of regular-size beads in purple, green, and gold. I like the way it turned out! The beads that are hanging off the sides of the wreath remind me of all the beads that get stuck on light fixtures and oak trees…
Mardi Gras Feather Wreath

Order of Inca, Mobile Mardi Gras

We left New Orleans for Mobile and went to the Order of Inca Mardi Gras parade:

We got there early to get a good spot. The parade started with the motorcycle police doing circles in the middle of the street, and then the mounted police went over to the little kids in the crowd so they could pet the horses. After that started a line of old Mobile police car, and then the parade actually started.

At Order of Inca Mardi Gras Parade, Mobile AL

Ack! I didn’t have a chance to take good pictures of the floats because I was so busy grabbing beads, doubloons, frisbees, moon pies, and a stuffed animal!

This year was Order of Inca’s 50th anniversary, and the theme was “Inca Finds Gold.”

There were lots of kids there, and the riders were really good about making sure they got tons of stuff – I was giving some of what I caught to a little boy next to me too – he was just in awe of everything!

Av and I got so much stuff that we started just stuffing it down his shirt (we totally forgot to bring bags)! We had a great time!

More pics are in my Flickr photostream here.

Pics from Krewe du Vieux, New Orleans

All year (really – all year!) I look forward to being in New Orleans for Mardi Gras season. Av is in the Krewe du Vieux parade, so we always get a big kick out of it.
Krewe du Vieux 2006

Soooooooo much fun!!!!
There are lots more pics on my Flickr set here.