A Celebratory Week to Remember

Well it was a fun, celebratory week to remember — one for the recollection record books!

Easter Sunday started it off — after a month of prep with finally getting a new garage roof completed. We still have some refinement to do so I’ll have to post a picture later. My Clivia plant, also known as a Kaffir Lily, seemed to be waiting to bloom on this special occasion. How appropriate and really beautiful this African plant is. My father-in-law gave it to me with multiple “babies” as offshoots that I divided and gave to my sister and sons. I’m waiting to hear if theirs’ bloomed.

Kaffir Lily blooms on Art Is Everywhere

Other plants that are flourishing are on our roof. The two types of butter/bib and arugula lettuce are three times the size of this now and nearly ready to harvest. Snap beans, beets and cauliflower seeds are coming along. I’ll need to replant the carrots though.

Rooftop Garden GlowPear Containers on AIE

You can read more about these hydroponic GlowPear planters on Houzz, where we purchased a second one.

My husband was able to get tickets through his office to the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC), which is near impossible since they are sold out already through July. There was a special viewing between 8 – 10 am midweek and I took my friend Liza. Although we needed Peter with us to enter, he decided not to attend in order for us to be able to when security discovered my miniature pairing knife in my purse that I had forgotten all about. Ugh!! They wouldn’t let me leave it with them so Peter took it back to his car and missed the museum opportunity but he’ll get more tickets. He also had a meeting that was going to shorten his time anyway and you really need a full day, as we discovered, to take it all in. We didn’t return home until 4:30. It took over 7 hours to go through at a leisurely pace, which you need to do to be able to read and process all the info. Fortunately, I had cleared my work calendar in advance. There is a tremendous amount to cover and the museum does a good job of showing viewers the progression of the African American history through three sub-terrain, what I call the “oppressive” concourses that move through the start of Slavery to Freedom > Defending Freedom and Segregation > Changing America 1968 & Beyond. Although there is still a sense of uncertainty at the end of the exhibit, one leaves with a positive appreciation of the African American history and all its accomplishments as well as the strength of the American Spirit.

The African American experience is the lens through which we understand what it is to be an American. — Lonnie Bunch (Founding Director)

NMAAHC museum building on AIE

NMAAHC museum

The first sense one has upon entering the museum is from the exterior grill work that suppresses the light, yet fills the space with ornamentation. It is supposed to recall the grill work in New Orleans that was made by slave labor and you do get a sense, especially in the lower galleries, of being in a cargo hold of a slave ship with only one way up and out.

NMAAHC grill work on Art Is Everywhere

You start at the bottom and walk through each concourse and move onto the next via ramps. There are no elevators or restrooms on any of these floors. If the intent was to be somewhat uncomfortable, then it works. There are, however, plenty of places to sit and rest, watch a movie, reflect or just take a break. I had to use the restroom and needed to walk all the way up while Liza rested. There was a placard at the top warning that once you exited you could not re-enter. I had to flag someone down to ask them if I could come back in. Although it wasn’t a problem, I can’t imagine the planners didn’t think this common occurrence through. It must happen a lot. There were hoards of people in line a this point and we were only half way through the exhibit. I hustled back to get a move on before it became crowded. It was starting to on the third concourse, especially when we visited the Emmett Till Memorial, where no pictures were allowed. This was a horrible event about a 14 year old African American boy who was lynched simply because some “white” folk were looking to make examples of blacks. The outcome is what sparked insurgence, uprising and riots, along with the tragic death of Martin Luther King. However, the final part of the main exhibit shows the progression of the African Americans to assimilate within the middle class, become major TV and music celebrities. In fact, America has a lot to be thankful for with their cultural contribution.

Colonial Slavery figures on Art Is Everywhere

Prominent Colonial historical figures including Thomas Jefferson and Mum Bet, who sued the State of Massachusetts to win her freedom and consequently abolished slavery in MA

Ashley's Sack 1 NMAAHC on AIE

This story is pretty heartbreaking. There were many that were but this one spoke to me.

Ashley's Sack 2 NMAAHC on AIE

It was interesting to note that at the very start of the Slave Trade, which was sparked by the sugar trade, Creole Africans were wealthy diplomats and highly sought after for their language capabilities and cultural knowledge.

Concourse 3 - 2 NMAAHC on AIE

Moving from Concourse 3 to 2

slave and free houses at NMAAHC on Art Is Everywhere

Juxtaposition between Slave House on lower Concourse 3 and Freed Slave’s own home on upper Concourse 2

Stereotypes at NMAAHC on AIE

Stereotypes in toys and paraphenalia

Segregated clinic hours at NMAAHC on AIE

These segregated clinic hours are hard to believe in this current time

Maple Leaf Rag on AIE

My parents used to dance to the Maple Leaf Rag

Angola guard station_interactive bar at NMAAHC on AIE

Angola Prison Guard Station and the Interactive “Segregation Bar” where you can follow a movement as if you’re a member

Soul Train on Art Is Everywhere

1968 & Beyond brings up Soul Train, which was big part of my childhood

Assimilating into Middle America on Art Is Everywhere

Assimilating into Middle America

Another Rat Pack Digs on Art Is Everywhere

The other Rat Pack Digs in Chicago

Foxy Brown and Sly and Family Stone on AIE

Foxy Brown movies still play on TV and notice Sly & Family Stone written on his piano keys

Main NMAAHC exhibit end on AIE

Main exhibit ends with highlights from the 2000’s like Hurricane Katrina and the Obama Administration, how could we forget.

We decided to break for lunch. The food at the Sweet Home Cafe was excellent! You could choose which regional fare you wanted to try. Of course I went right for the Creole Southern Duck / Andouille Sausage Gumbo but then changed my mind at the last-minute to get the Shrimp and Grits because the shrimp were gigantic! The meal was delicious and a generous portion! The dining hall was in the shape of the “ark” or museum Congo ship, yet each layer had vines growing in the indented, internal troughs. The back walls were mirrored to make the space look twice as large as what we thought it could hold. We didn’t wait around for that test because the buses of people were now streaming in.

Panoramic Mall view from the top of NMAAHC on AIE

Panoramic Mall view from the top

Looking down on the Gift Shop on AIE

Looking down on the Gift Shop

Reproductions of Mary Jackson's baskets in the gift shop on AIE

Reproductions of Mary Jackson’s baskets in the gift shop

After a much needed energy refresh, we tackled the top four floors. Similarly to the sub-floors, where you start at the bottom and walk up, we started in reverse at the very top and moved downward. We visited all the floors but only experienced three. There were elevators and escalators and restrooms on all of these. The top floor Culture Galleries was my favorite. It showed the importance of the African American culture in food, music, arts, fashion, and sports. I by-passed the last, but fully savored all the others. I was just as impressed with the exhibition layout as I was with the rich content. The first oval room had double display bays with the interior, bench-seating to the double-sided, wall-alcoves with a musical entertainment-video that changed visuals with the continuous music that wrapped around the top of the room. We moved from here to the Visual Art Gallery with primarily contemporary art (not my thing) to the Musical Achievement wing with Chuck Berry’s car greeting us at the entry. I breezed through the Theatre section and will have to go back.

Food & Culture greet you on the top 4th floor of NMAAHC on AIE

Food & Culture greet you on the top 4th floor. Chef Leah Chase is prominently featured with her Dooky Chase restaurant in New Orleans.

Earth Wind & Fire at NMAAHC on AIE

Earth Wind & Fire is one of my favorite bands highlighted in the Musical component

Allen Toussaint is mentioned in the Jazz sectionAllen Toussaint is mentioned in the Jazz section on AIE

Allen Toussaint is mentioned in the Jazz section

Level 3 housed the Community Galleries, where some of the main exhibit details were further explored. For instance, there was an entire room dedicated to Muhammad Ali, another section to Ben Carson, and another to the Military Experience. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see any recognition given to Clarence Thomas but did see Thurgood Marshal and Anita Hill mentioned in regard to the Supreme Court. There were also mini exhibits dedicated to Making a Way Out of No Way with progress in medical, religion and school, etc., highlighted.

We didn’t have enough energy to explore the Explore More Gallery on the 2nd level, which was mainly interactive exhibits. I popped my head in and saw one older white woman, who was the only one dancing to an instructional video by an African American dance troupe. Others were watching and encouraging her as if she was playing “Wei” by herself but doing a pretty good job.

We took an Uber home and had an interesting discussion with our American-Cuban driver, Marisol about the experience. Funny, we missed Oprah by one day, as she was there the next day to screen the Henrietta Lacks movie airing on HBO. I read the book several years ago and am interested to see the movie. It’s definitely a story that needs more exposure.

Earlier in the week, Peter and I celebrated our wedding anniversary by finally visiting the Trump Hotel to see how the Old Post Office was revamped. We had drinks in the main lobby, which is huge but well decorated. The main architecture and iron struts of the original building remained and painted gold. I liked the peacock, teal blue and green velvet seating paired with amber and gold throughout the expansive room. The bar wall was mirrored to the top and filled with clear glass decanters and glasses situated on dark mahogany shelving. Very impressive. Two large TV’s were playing Fox News. We were seated next to what had to be a bevy of beautiful friends of The Real Housewives of DC. No kidding. This was entertaining to say the least.

Trump International Hotel anniversary for drinks on AIE

Trump International Hotel anniversary for drinks. The ladies had left by this point.

Trump Hotel Bar area on Art Is Everywhere

Although the ambience was captivating, the service was off. We had to call someone over after 15 minutes. They gave us water and nuts without napkins and the hostess took our initial order. The place was nearly filled but not that busy. We sampled the signature cocktails, which were unfortunately too expensive at $25 – $29 and actually did not taste very good, which is too bad! We stuck with wine and cheese choices which were good and surprisingly affordable. All in all, it was a different way to celebrate an off-year; even though, there can be some improvements made, especially if you’re expecting the best.

Trump DC Hotel at night on AIE

Trump DC Hotel at night

Meanwhile, the rest of the week was enjoying the gorgeous spring weather. Even the cats seemed to relish this indoors and out.

Cats sleeping on AIE

This picture cracks me up. These cats sleep so differently.

Cats outside on AIE

Ingrid enjoys outside on AIE

Ingrid just turned 1 year old

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Post Mardi Gras Mention

Another Mardi Gras has gone by but not without making a post Mardi Gras mention about several events happening recently.

First, with tribute to a Southern cuisine-mix and Mardi Gras, about which I’ve just hosted 2 fun dinners for friends. The first being for my Book Group two Tuesdays ago after my birthday weekend. To “prepare” šŸ˜‰ Peter and I experienced the new Honeysuckle restaurant by Chef Hamilton Johnson because he features the unusual pairing of Nordic and Southern cuisine, and does it exceptionally well.

Honeysuckle-logo-food_AIE

The restaurant is in the former location of Vidalia a long-time DC classic. It’s chef was Chef Johnson’s mentor, so stands to reason he would follow suit, but in his own way. You still have to go downstairs to get to the restaurant but from the outside, you’re not sure it’s the restaurant or so upscale with graffiti-style murals of skulls and bones by Rick Bach on a bold red backdrop. The simple Honeysuckle name is on the outside black canopy entrance. The name doesn’t seem to jive with the theme. However, if you think about it, honeysuckle is one of the sweetest-smelling and hardiest flowering-vines in the South — one of my favorites. Honeysuckle also grows in Finland and is the main ingredient of one of their famous teas. In this case, the complexity of the sweet and flowery balances the hard-edge juxtaposition with the food and dĆ©cor, maybe also just like the chef with his many tattoos. Chef Johnson is a master of combining complete opposites with creative, cooking artistry.

Chef Hamilton Johnson profile_AIE

This photo greets you at the bottom of the stairs

Honeysuckle2 interior_AIE

The restaurant interior is a mix of more murals on the ceiling, a vermilion colored back-lit bar with rotating images of Finland on a large TV screen. Dining areas and rooms are separated by themed rock stars with their large-scale portraits commanding a presence as some of Chef Johnson’s favorite performers. We ate in the Freddie Mercury elevated area. It was a gorgeous setting with shimmery white-capiz wallcovering that I recognized from Maya Romanoff. Mercury was wearing a bunch of bananas as a headdress, which seemed to downplay the elegance in a self-deprecating and appreciative way. Freddie Mercury Room Honeysuckle_AIE

I had mentioned to our waiter that it was my birthday and part of the reason for attending was to experience the unusual Nordic / Southern pairing. Being from New Orleans and that I’ll be going on a Scandinavian cruise to visit my Danish heritage, experiencing the combination was something I could appreciate. I’m not sure if this is how we received a complementary order of sweet breads from the chef. It’s not something I would have ordered but was the most delicious thing!

Honeysuckle_sweetbreads_AIE

The winter vegetable salad of pistachio, prune, meyer lemon, buttermilk, tarragon, buckwheat on butter lettuce served on top of the Icelandic dressing was something I semi-replicated for my book group dinner, with the addition of Southern grapefruit, mandarin orange segments, walnuts and cranberried goat cheese crumbles. It was delicious and I’ll do it again and again. (Good tip: put the dressing on the bottom to prepare in advance without wilting the lettuce)

Book Group Dinner version of Scandinavian_Southern style_AIE

My Book Group Dinner version of Scandinavian + Southern style – Mardi Gras colored flowers with Fleur-de-lis Iris & dragonflies connected to Norse goddes Freya

Scandanavian-Southern-salad_AIE

Winter Beet Salad version

Peter had the fois gras to start and the slow roasted Icelandic cod, rutabaga, chicken crackling, smoked roe, malted veloute. The seared sea scallops, pig tail tortellini, squash fondue, coffee-bacon jam, parmesan was initially calling my name but the waiter talked me into their pork special, which I am not sure is currently the same on their menu as the dulse rubbed pork tenderloin, cipollini, melted parsnip, roasted apple, kale, as mine had Icelandic dried seaweed. I won out with mine, which was rich and abundant. We finished by sharing the butterscotch panna cotta, oats, skyr creme fraiche, rum raisin, toffee meringue dessert, which was soft, light and divine! This is one restaurant where we will be returning, especially as the menu changes and our waiter informed us intends on being even more daring with the Nordic-Southern pairings.

Honeysuckle_cod2_AIE

Icelandic Cod

Honeysuckle Pannacotta_AIE

Luscious panna cotta for dessert

Then second Mardi Gras mention was a combination of this Southern theme with Nordic style to pay tribute to the book we read, God’s Daughter, Vikings of the New World Saga Book 1 by Heather Day Gilbert. Since I didn’t take pictures during my book group dinner, I replicated afterwards (see some above as well as below). I will be making some of the same dishes on Mardi Gras evening to celebrate our good friend, Steve’s birthday. Most years his birthday falls on Ash Wednesday or during Lent and he can never fully celebrate while giving up all drinking and sweets during this time. We thought the timing worth acknowledging with a dinner for the many times we’ve been treated.

Scandinavian Style_Creole Seafood Gumbo_AIE

Scandinavian Style + Creole Seafood Gumbo

2 Types of King Cake - traditional & Danish_AIE

2 Types of King Cake – traditional & Danish

Instead of the Nordic theme, this second dinner was full on New Orleans. However, unlike the typical seafood gumbo, like I did for the ladies, or with chicken and andouille sausage, this gumbo was made with scallops (Steve’s favorite and happens to be mine as well) from Peter’s New York Times recipes. Scallops are more New England than they are southern but this was a nice twist on a classic New Orleans recipe. Mark Bittman does a great job of simply making this recipe work. I also replicated the Southern beet salad.

Scallop Gumbo_Art Is Everywhere

Scallop Gumbo. This was delicious and maybe even better than the previous.

We had our 4th King Cake of the season from Best Buns. It is scrumptious with an almond base, traditional frosting and colored sprinkles and unlike others, not dry at all. Getting one from Calludah’s, which is where I would have ordered would have cost over 4 times as much, so not worth it when this is local and extremely good.

I was going to make a six layer doberge cake but realizing the work, we had scouted a local one at Del Frisco’s for my birthday and it was well worth the venture. However, we found a small chocolate one for Steve instead. Although 3 layers, it is just the right size from Wegman’s, which is where we’ve started doing most of our shopping with savings.

Del Friscos Lemon Doberge_AIE

Del Friscos Lemon Doberge Cake

personal chocolate cake_AIE

Personal Chocolate Cake

Birthday wishes_AIE

Making Birthday Wishes

Now that we’re starting the Lenten season, it’s nice to reflect back on the Mardi Gras abundance this year with many reasons to celebrate — with our own creative takes on ways to enjoy.

Picture perfect birthday day_AIE

Picture perfect birthday day

I’ll end with a pretty perfect pairing of Mardi Gras transitioning to the reflective time of Lent, sacrifice and service for others. Cleland Powell III, who is the vice president of Iberia Bank in New Orleans, was chosen as the artist for the annual 2017 Rex Proclamation (King of Carnival poster, which calls for all to participate in Mardi Gras). He is a self-taught painter and was selected for his talent. Normally, the artist would be paid 10 percent of poster sales for such an honor. According to The New Orleans Advocate, Powell is donating his profits to the Pro Bono Publico Foundation, the Rex foundation that benefits the city, especially its public schools. The article also mentions, his work is in good company. Previous proclamation artists include Dawn DeDeaux, Mignon Faget, Randolph Tucker Fitz-Hugh, Tony Green, George Schmidt, Jean Seidenberg and Tim Trapolin.

Rex Proclamation via The New Orleans Advocate_AIE

Rex Proclamation via The New Orleans Advocate

I still wear my Mignon Faget giraffe necklace from when I was in high school and Tony Green happened to have his studio across from my parents’ condo before they sold it to new owners who then sold it to “Brangelina.”

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