Sunday, May 29, 2011

Missing My Kitchen

So last night we had one of the angels from our church group cooking and bringing dinner over for us, slow roasted pork roast, home made bar b que sauce, cole slaw and rolls.  Thursday night Robert and I spent almost an hour discussing our individual preferences for marinades, dry rubs, cooking times & temperatures and several different bar b que sauce recipes.  Since then I realize that of everything ALS has taken  its toll on so far, my kitchen time might be what I miss most, even more than going to the restroom alone.

Growing up in New Orleans where food is at the center of everything, where chefs are local royalty and with a Dad who was a very good cook, I guess it was inevitable I'd learn my way around the kitchen.  What I was surprised by was that I LOVE to cook; it is where my creativity comes out. Unfortunately now that my hands and arms are losing strength and fine motor control, I just can't handle the pots and pans and since Gina insists I keep all ten fingers, I'm not allowed to use my chef knives.

While I figure my way around my new physical limitations, I have undertaken a challenge of monumental proportions...I have taken Ryan into the kitchen and actually produced edible dishes.  You see while all the other children have passable culinary abilities, Ryan would need a recipe to boil water. Under a watchful eye, very specific directions and just a wee bit of good natured commentary, I have at least been an active participant in getting him through some basic items; we even managed southwestern corn and black bean salad for Life Group.  

I also have been slack in completing the Dad's recipe book I promised Brigid many moons ago and I've had more requests, so I may have to live vicariously through my recipe writing.  I'm not giving up finding the right tools that will get me cooking again, as they say "where there's a will, there's a way".  Until then, guess I'll have to get my fix with Giada, Rachel, Bobby Flay and the Top Chefs

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Weekend Report #3

And now, the MAIN EVENT!  All of the fun so far was merely an appetiser for Saturday and Sunday at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which IMHO is a better reason to visit the Big Easy than  Mardi Gras.  This year marked the 42nd year of the fest and the third year in a row for me; while it was an annual excursion during my college days, most of my years from 82 -2006 were spent away from Louisiana.  If you like great live music or great food or spending the day hanging out with friends, put this on your must do list.

The weather was perfect > sunny breezy and mid 80's with no rain in the forecast, so armed with plenty of sunscreen and the loaner power chair supplied by the ALS Association, we headed for the Fairgrounds.  For the PALS and CALS who read this, I have to share how handicap friendly this event is.  First, the only on site parking allowed is strictly for the handicapped, it's not cheap but was still less than it would have cost the four of us to ride the shuttle and we were yards away from the entrance.  Upon entering you could pick up a key for the wheelchair accessible port o potties which were plentiful around the grounds and clean because they were kept locked.  Special access sections were barricaded off in front of each stage for the handicapped providing VIP level views of the artists while the tented venues also had dedicated entrances and a widened aisle for wheelchair operation.  All of the food and drink booths had wheelchair height counters and the asphalt paths winding through the infield made it easy to get around.  Being relatively new to using the power chair, I must say the set up made the event that much more enjoyable!

So here's the run down of the musical acts we caught at the fest: Saturday
  • Shamarr Allen & the Underdawgs
  • Geno Delafose & French Rockin Boogie
  • James Andrews & the Crescent City Allstars

  • Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
  • DJ Soul Sister
  • Jimmy Buffet
  • Fourplay
  • and Aaron Neville singing in the Gospel Tent
Sunday's lineup:
  • Grandpa Smalls & Playing for Change
  • Papa Grows Funk
  • Michael Franti & Speardhead
  • The Radiators

  The best way to experience food at the fest is to get a little portion of a lot of  different dishes and share them around.  So here's the festival foods list

  • Crawfish bread
  • crawfish sacks
  • oyster patties
  • softshell crab po boys
  • cracklins
  • shrimp flauta
  • crawfish beignets
  • pheasant & andouille gumbo
  • crawfish Monica
  • fried green tomatoes
  • seafood stuffed mushrooms
  • key lime tarts
  • strawberry shortcake
One of the special treats of the Jazz Fest is when musicians get together with friends for unique one time performances.  We saw Sonny Landreth and Alan Toussaint with Jimmy Buffet, Amanda Shaw fiddling with Michael Franti and the Radiators farewell performance where they were joined by Warren Hayes, Michael Doucet and the Bonerama horns.  WOW! What a great time we had, save the datess for 2012 April 27 - May 6th, see you there!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Weekend Report #2

When the reality of my ALS diagnosis set in last year, I was encouraged to consider doing some of the things on my "bucket list" while I was able to enjoy myself.  Last year our church had done a series on 30 Days To Live, and we had discussed the topic at length with our home group.  Tim McGraw's song talks about skydiving, mountain climbing and bull riding, but these held little interest for me; I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my family and friends.

So at the beginning of the year when we began planning for Jazz Fest, I invited my college fraternity  brothers and little sisters to stop putting off that reunion we'd been talking about for so long and make the trip to New Orleans this year since I don't know how many more I'll be able to attend.  The response from so many far away friends was overwhelming and we gathered on Friday to reconnect, drink a few beers and share some memories.  The corner of  Broadway and Zimple was special to these Tulane Alumni for two reasons: the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house and The Boot.  New Orleans is one of the few places where you can find a bar filled with a mixed crowd of college kids and 50 somethings at noon on a Friday and no one thinks it's unusual.
As I was wheeled into the bar where I'm sure I should have been wheeled out many times in my college days, it was all I could do not to tear up as I saw my friends waiting to greet me.  Thank you for making the trip and thanks to the spouses who allowed you to be away from home on Mother's Day.  Here's the group > Pat and Kim from Pittsburgh, Donna Jo from Orlando, John from New Jersey, Ben from Atlanta, Greg from Houston, Stacey from Savannah and Des from Jax as well as Jon and Maite who live in Nola.  The only thing that put a damper on the day was news that our old frat house was soon to be demolished. That brought back memories of room mates, Babe's spoon, and the great theme parties like Heaven n Hell night, the New Jersey Saturate and the Miami Beach Party with the truckload of sand filling the bottom floor.  Before heading off to Mandina's for shrimp, oyster and roast beef po boys we trekked across the street for a final visit to the house.  As the gang headed out for a night in the Quarter, I headed in to rest up for the next two days at Jazz Fest.  Here's the way the story of Pike house ended, thanks to all for making special memories!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Weekend Report #1

It seems I've been slacking a bit in keeping up with regular posts, sorry avid readers.  It is becoming more of an effort to do the typing with frequent breaks required, and frankly there wasn't much going on.  Well, last weekend sure made up for the down time, so much action it won't fit in one post!

We started the weekend early with Brigid celebrating a birthday on Thursday. We headed to New Orleans with Ryan in tow and met Bri and her friend for dinner at Deanie 's Seafood; yummy boiled crawfish and mounds of fried oysters, shrimp and catfish! We were also joined by two additional special guests for the event.

Victory was ours as we also celebrated the arrival home of our son Sean!  After a struggle to get the Army to approve his compassionate relocation and with the help of ALS Guardian Angels and the media, Sean finally made it to Louisiana!  He reported to Fort Polk, LA this week where we hope he will be able to serve out his last two years of duty.  Sean had proposed to his girlfriend, Michelle, the previous weekend while camping in Yosemite National Park and she said YES!

As you can see he picked up a few pointers from Dad, getting all romantic and proposing in front of a waterfall, nice job son!  Sean and Michelle first met in October 2008 at his brother Kyle's wedding where they were both in the wedding party.  Michelle is our daughter in law Eden's childhood friend and such a great compliment to Sean, they'll make a great team.  Soon we'll have another wedding to get ready for!  If Kyle can get transferred to Fort Polk where they could all serve together and be close to home, that would make this Dad very happy.  Of course Gina worries if Fort Polk could handle the Connell brothers, while I say it might not be ready for two California girls.  So Thursday was a celebration of family and soon to be family!