Merry Christmas!

Submitted by Christi

Merry Christmas from A Southern Life in New Orleans.


Caroling in the Park

Submitted by Christi

Beautiful music abound here in New Orleans. You may be familiar with the beautiful caroling that takes place at Jackson Square.

Photo courtesy of Fleurty Girl – click on pic for link.

What you may not know about is the smaller caroling events that take place in neighborhood parks around the city. We had one of these in our neighborhood recently at Palmer Park.

Our crowd was not quite this big and it had rained a bit just before we started so that made for a smaller crowd as well but still it was a lovely evening. It was also an opportunity to donate food to the 2nd Harvest Food Bank. There were vendors set up with hot chocolate, eggnog, crepes and more with proceeds benefiting 2nd Harvest as well.

It was fun to see the children enjoying the singing and playing in the park and I think the adults enjoyed it just as much. I know I did. The singing was led by the choir of the Mater Delorosa Catholic Church.

Here are some pics:

After the caroling, we came home and enjoyed some hot and hearty beef stew. What a lovely way to spend an evening. New Orleans has so many wonderful neighborhoods to enjoy. Don’t miss them!

Today’s Lagniappe: Beef Stew

Lightly dredge 2 lb. of stew meat in flour. Brown the meat in a little oil in the bottom of a dutch oven. When the meat is brown, add a couple of potatoes and 3 or 4 carrots that have been cut into bite size chunks 1 can of beef broth, 1 lg. can of tomato sauce, 2 cups red wine, a few tablespoons of Worcestershire, garlic powder, salt and pepper (to taste).  Bring to a boil and then simmer for a couple of hours. Serve with cornbread.


Christmas Scenes on the Avenue (St. Charles, that is)

Submitted by Cindy

I was walking the dog yesterday when I came across Santa Claus lying in the middle of St. Charles Avenue.  This wasn’t a mall Santa with too many toddies after a stressful day of wishes, but a twenty foot tall fiberglass guy!  He was accompanied by workers from a company that produces Mardi Gras parades and extravaganzas.  A small crowd watched in fascination as a large crane hoisted Santa over the iron fence, skillfully dodging overhanging oak branches.  How I wish I’d had the camera with me!  But I went back to capture him welcoming passersby in front of his beautiful temporary home.

Loyola and Tulane Universities are several blocks away.  The nativity scene in Loyola’s quadrangle facing the avenue has been a Christmas fixture since I was a child.  It was very serene this morning compared to last week when the school brought in 20 tons of ice for the enjoyment of neighborhood children.  As you might imagine, snow is a rarity in New Orleans and it was packed.  I managed to get a few shots before some snowballs to the face told me it was time to go.

This morning was the annual carol service at St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church, a much anticipated event.  The choir accompanied by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra performed Hodie, a Christmas cantata by Ralph Vaughan Williams.  It was a soothing hour, especially in light of the country’s recent tragedy.  (Wish I could share it with you, but we have a no electronics policy during services.)  There was another attraction for the kids and kids at heart – my friend Geoff set up his model train set in the fellowship hall.  You can watch his trains in motion circling through their Christmas Village.  How many Saints trains (I’m talking football rather than pious types) have you seen?

All this happening within a couple of blocks – it’s why we love New Orleans!

Click pictures to enlarge

Wreaths and Garlands and Doors . . . Oh My!

Submitted by Christi

Recently, my husband and I took a walk down State Street here in New Orleans. It is a lovely tree lined street with beautiful homes and gardens. Now, at Christmas time, it takes on a whole new and beautiful look. I took lots of pictures and today, I want to share the doors with their festive wreaths and garlands and bows. Lots of eye candy here. Another reason to love New Orleans! Oh, and once you have seen all the pics, don’t forget to check out the toffee recipe at the bottom.

Click on any picture to enlarge.

Today’s Lagniappe: Christmas Toffee
Lagniappe (pronounced lan-yap) = a little something extra

Making candy around the holidays is a fun tradition, but sometimes, you just don’t have a lot of time available for all that is involved. This toffee, made with saltines is a great time saver that tastes great and is easy.


saltine crackers (enough to line a 13 x 18 sheet pan)
2 sticks of butter
1 cup of brown sugar (I used light but use whatever you have)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 12 oz. package of semi-sweet chocolate chips (you can use milk chocolate if you prefer)
toasted nuts (I used slivered almonds but chopped pecans or walnuts would be great too)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and spray it generously with non-stick cooking spray (do not skip this step – trust me). Place saltine crackers in the pan with the salt side up – like this:

Christmas toffee

Melt the butter and brown sugar over medium high heat, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil. Let the butter and sugar mixture boil for 3 minutes (stirring to make sure it doesn’t stick on the bottom). Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Pour the butter/sugar mixture over the crackers (be careful, it is very hot). Place the sheet pan in the oven and bake the toffee for 5 minutes. Remove the sheet pan from the oven.

Sprinkle chocolate chips over the top of the hot toffee mixture. The chocolate will melt. Once the chocolate has melted, spread it to cover the top of the toffee. Sprinkle the nuts on top of the toffee.

Christmas toffee

Let cool and then you can put it in the refrigerator to continue setting up. Once the toffee has set up, remove it from the pan with the foil lining. Either cut it up into small toffee pieces (as I do) or break it up. This is very rich so you will want small pieces.

Sorry, I forgot to get a “beauty shot” – guess I’ll have to make some more 🙂

Metamorphosis Monday

Metamorphosis Monday with Between Naps on the Porch


Christmas in the Country

Submitted by Cindy

My friends Jimmy and David have a fantastic second home an hour north of New Orleans in rural St. Tammany Parish.  Over twenty years they have transformed a barren piece of land into an estate with a fantastic house, lake, gardens, a greenhouse, and a commercial nursery.  The latest addition – just in time for the Christmas season – is a chapel.

We were honored to attend their annual Christmas Open House last weekend.   I’m only showing you inside views today, but we’ll go back in the spring when the gardens are in full bloom.   As always, the home was beautifully decorated, with holiday color in every room.

Click to enlarge.

You can’t have a party in New Orleans without food, and David is a fantastic cook.  The old saying “you eat first with your eyes” is especially true here – just look at the artistic displays.  I wish that I had such attention to detail!  If  you’re getting hungry, check out the recipe for Blue Cheese Pine Cones below.

Click to enlarge.

Blue Cheese Pine Cones

2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened

1-1/4 cups processed cheese sauce

1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled blue cheese

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1 tablespoon diced pimientos

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1-1/2 cups unblanched almonds, toasted

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, cheese sauce and blue cheese until smooth. Stir in the onions, pimientos and Worcestershire sauce. Cover and refrigerate until firm. On a serving platter, form cheese spread into a pine cone shape. Beginning at the narrow end, arrange almonds in rows.  Serve with crackers. 

Tablescape Thursday with Between Naps on the Porch

with Between Naps on the Porch


Music in the Air

Submitted by Christi

In New Orleans, there is never a shortage of great music to enjoy and that is especially the case at Christmas time. There are many places to enjoy free concerts by great musicians and some you can join in creating the music yourself. One of the more unusual opportunities to join in is presented by Trinity Church’s Messiah Sing-Along.

Once upon a time, I enjoyed being part of different choral groups that performed Handel’s Messiah so this event was very appealing to me. The Christmas portion of the Messiah was performed and the audience could join in with the magnificent Trinity choir on the choruses. How fun is that? I admit, I ended up listening more than singing – can’t really hit the high notes anymore (not that I ever could hit them that well). Also, I just enjoyed hearing the beautiful voices. It was a wonderful event. Here are a couple of the highlights (the choir is located back by the organ pipes that you can see on the left side):

For Unto Us A Child Is Born:


The Hallelujah Chorus

Hope you enjoyed that as much as I did! Merry Christmas!



Ornaments, New Orleans Style

Submitted by Cindy

Decorating our Christmas tree is like a walk down memory lane.  We phased out the shiny glass balls many years ago. Each of our ornaments is unique, and most have a story behind them.

We have a sterling “Our First Christmas”, but what I really remember from that year is the cute ornaments that Shell was giving away with a fill-up.  With a giant tree sitting in our almost bare den, we topped off the tank a lot.  My father adored the holidays.  One of his favorite places to shop was a Christmas store in Highlands, N.C., where he would buy me a special ornament during each summer’s vacation.  My dear aunt Jocelyn always attached an ornament to my gift, with the year hand painted on it.  And so it goes …..people, places, and events from the past.

A nine foot tree can hold plenty of ornaments, so I’m only going to show you a few that depict New Orleans.  Bear with me – some will take a bit of explanation so you can appreciate them.

A local jewelry store occasionally issues ornaments commemorating various Mardi Gras organizations.  The first ornament below is a detailed replica of the 1893 Rex king’s float, leading off a parade with the theme “Fantasies”.    The next honors the Elves of Oberon, an organization dating from 1895.  Drawing from their Midsummer Night’s Dream imagery, Puck (assistant to Oberon, the King of Fairyland) is poised to introduce his pranks at the krewe’s ball.  The third depicts the invitation to Rex’s ball of 1882, where the robes of the “Butterfly King” unfold to reveal the details of its reception themed “Pursuit of Pleasure”.  Lots more about all this when we get closer to Carnival!

The rest are a bit easier to comprehend.  The fleur de lis has long been a symbol of New Orleans, and the jester is a popular Mardi Gras image.  Christi told you all about our streetcar a while back.  The little house reminded a friend of my first home, a peach colored shotgun cottage, a prevalent architectural form in this city.  The other building ornament commemorates the local Preservation Resource Center’s first renovation, which began the transformation of skid row into a desirable neighborhood.  And I had to slip in a reference to my alma mater.

Enough talk!  Enjoy the pictures.

Click pictures to enlarge.

More Christmas Decorations

Submitted by Cindy

More Christmas Decorations

You’ve seen Christi’s decorations, and now it’s my turn!

I’m a fairly spontaneous decorator, but I’ve got a couple of guiding principles.  First, I love fresh greenery.  We had a tradition when I was little – “getting the pine”.  We’d go out to the woods and my father would chop down a pine tree or two, using the boughs to decorate the house.  It smelled so great!  We now buy garlands to support a local school’s fundraising efforts.  I make the rounds of tree selling operations in the area, gathering trimmings to use in vases and such.  There are also great things in the yard, alas, no holly berries this year.  Materials here courtesy of Lowe’s, my front hedge, and a neighbor’s kumquat bush.

Second, I believe in recycling.  That’s a polite way to say that I can’t resist rooting through people’s trash when the decorations start coming down.  I also save pics from flower arrangements, nifty ribbon, or whatever might have potential.  I redid our tired old wreath that I couldn’t bring myself to pitch because it came from a friend’s shop that’s no longer business.   My neighbor tossed out a professionally created garland, lights, ornaments, beads, and all.  It lives on!


And finally, sentimentality wins out over sophistication any day.  Some objects appear year after year because they have become our traditions.  Others are remembrances of childhood, like the set of mice that my husband and his mother bought at an after Christmas sale.  Thirty-two cents each.  It just wouldn’t be Christmas without them!

Have you noticed that there are no pictures of the tree?  That’s coming next time.

Click to enlarge

Metamorphosis Monday

Metamorphosis Monday with Between Naps on the Porch

Christmas in New Orleans

Submitted by Christi

New Orleans is a great place to visit and live anytime but I think it is just especially magical at Christmas time. There is so much to enjoy! In addition to the beautiful Christmas decorations, there are the Reveillon dinners, the caroling at Jackson Square and in Palmer Park and . . . well, obviously, this is going to take a few posts. Yesterday, I showed you a little about what is going on here in my home, specifically, the fireplace mantel. Today, we’ll step outside and see the porch and a bit more of the house.

Let’s start out on the porch.

Christmas in New Orleans

Keeping it simple with a few bows, some garland, and of course some lights.

Christmas in New Orleans

The weather has been lovely, and that calls for some porch sittin’, don’t you think?

click on any picture to enlarge:

Before we go inside, let’s look around a little more outside.

Christmas Gate

The front gate is decorated for Christmas.



And, of course, we don’t want to forget the Reason for the Season!

Now, come on in and I’ll show you a couple of rooms.

click for complete pictures and to enlarge

Now, I think it is time to get out in the city and see what is going on! I hope you’ll join me to see some more of Christmas in New Orleans.

Christi’s Lagniappe: Louisiana Christmas Strawberries
Lagniappe (pronounced lan-yap)= a little something extra

Louisiana early crop strawberries are already coming in! They are beautiful and delicious. I just cleaned them, dipped them in melted white chocolate, then rolled them in green decorator sugar. Pretty and delicious!

Louisiana Christmas Strawberries

Metamorphosis Monday

Metamorphosis Monday with Between Naps on the Porch

New Orleans Christmas Mantel

Submitted by Christi

Glad you could come and join us here in New Orleans where we are gearing up for tons of fun in the city and plenty here at home as well. Lots of posts coming up to tell you about the caroling, the dinners, the decorating, and  . . . well, let’s just say it is going to take a few posts to cover Christmas in New Orleans.

We’ll start here at home with the mantel. In New Orleans, it doesn’t get cold enough very often for a fire. Maybe, that is why the fireplace in my home is not functional. However, I do think I can get by with candles in the fireplace. After all, during Hurricane Isaac, some water (mixed with soot) did actually spatter down the chimney! 🙂

Well, hurricane season is over. It is now time for some Christmas celebrating!

Christmas Mantel

Ignore that lady in the mirror LOL!

I can’t pass up the opportunity to hang Christmas stockings on the mantel. It is only my husband and me and our dog and cat, but still – can’t let that go to waste!

Here is the Christmas Mantel Gallery:

Tomorrow, we’ll explore some more of the house and then we’ll head out to see the beautiful city of New Orleans celebrating Christmas. There will be lots of decorating, recipes and events. I hope you will come back and join us again!


The Lettered Cottage
Metamorphosis Monday

Metamorphosis Monday with Between Naps on the Porch


Meanwhile . . . Back at the Ranch

Submitted by Cindy

Both my husband’s parents came from ranching families, and I realized early on that cattle were in his genes.  They have passed on, but Ed inherited the ranch that has been in his father’s family since 1877.  That’s how a city girl from New Orleans happens to be running cattle long distance in Atascosa County, Texas.  We raise Herefords, the brown ones with the white faces.

We made a trip over Thanksgiving to check on things.  Thankfully we have had enough rain this year to go into winter with lots of grass and water in the tanks (ranch speak for ponds).  It was a relaxing week, watching the cattle graze, enjoying the late fall sunsets, and unplugging from the electronic world.

I wasn’t always so fond of the ranch.  For someone used to lights and action, rural Texas seemed so ….. boring.  But Ed is a pretty shrewd guy, and a while back he got me my own horse, figuring I would want to go over often to visit.  It worked!  Ringo is the big boy on the left, with his BFF Sandy.  They just finished rolling in the dirt after a long ride.

Sit back and enjoy some scenes from the ranch.  It just might grow on you too!

Click on pics to enlarge

Outdoor Wedenesday

Outdoor Wednesday with A Southern Daydreamer