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KREWES, KING CAKE, AND CULTURE T he F ascinating H istory of M ardi G ras
FROM THE DESK OF
PRACTICAL RESOLUTIONS FOR 2019
I’mnot going to give you a list of traditional resolutions—you’ve heard enough of those. Instead, I’mgoing to share some practical New Year’s resolution ideas that will help you and your adult children in 2019. Let’s get started. 1. Have a life-care conversationwith your spouse about long-termcare planning. Have you discussed how you will finance the $10,000 per month nursing home bill? The chances of needing long-term care exceed 70 percent if you reach the age of 65. 2. Make an inventory of your assets. Get a binder or portable file and place all of your life insurance policies, IRA statements, and any investment documents inside andmake sure that they are clearly labeled. 3. Update your estate documents. Make sure that you and your spouse both have strong power of attorney documents as well as updated wills and trusts. Good news— I can help you accomplish all of these. Educate yourself at one of our monthly seminars. You can register by calling us at (440) 888-6448 or visit stanoseminars.com.
Unlike most holidays, Mardi Gras is associated with a place as much as it is a time. When people think of Mardi Gras, they automatically think of New Orleans. The celebration, held on a Tuesday in either February or March, is a point of pride for NOLA residents but is often misunderstood by the general public. Here’s what you need to know about America’s most regional holiday.
Mardi Gras doesn’t follow the traditional holiday calendar patterns we’re familiar with. It doesn’t fall on a static date, like Christmas, or a specific day within a month, like Memorial Day. Instead, it follows the pattern of Easter, which is based on a more complicated formula. Easter takes place on the Sunday after the first ecclesiastical full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox (the start of spring). An ecclesiastical full moon, as opposed to a regular full moon, is determined by Catholic church tables, not by lunar patterns. While that part is pretty complex, determining the date of Mardi Gras is much easier: It’s 47 days before Easter. As such, it can fall on any Tuesday between Feb. 3 and March 9, hence the name Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday.”
While New Orleans is undoubtedly the place everyone associates with Mardi Gras, it is not where the holiday originated in America. That honor belongs to Mobile, Alabama, which organized the first widespread Mardi Gras celebrations in 1703. As more people moved to New Orleans, which became the capital of Louisiana in 1723, the holiday took root there.
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That’s also the result of its Catholic origins. Lent, a time of fasting and giving up earthly pleasures, begins on Ash Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras. Historically, Mardi Gras was a chance to engage in revelry before 40 days of lean living. In other words, it was the binge before the purge. Today, Mardi Gras celebrations certainly bring to mind images of people bingeing. The tourist experience of Mardi Gras is one of drinking on Bourbon Street, crowding the bars, and staying up all night. While you can definitely have that Mardi Gras if you want it, most locals will tell you that the “real” Mardi Gras is something else entirely. “Mainstream media tends to showcase a very specific kind of Mardi Gras,” says Solange Knowles, “but my experience of Mardi Gras is very different; it’s very cultural.” These cultural traditions were created by social clubs called krewes. The krewes create floats, dress in ornate costumes, and parade down
the streets trailed by brass bands known as second lines.
The official food of Mardi Gras is king cake. Though called a cake, it’s actually more of an iced bread; the dough closely resembles brioche. On top of the cake, you’ll find icing in green, gold, and purple, which are the colors of the Mardi Gras flag. A figurine called a feve is hidden inside the cake, usually in the shape of a baby. It is considered good luck to be the person whose slice has the figurine inside. All of these institutions are still in place today and have come to represent what Mardi Gras means to residents. Mardi Gras in the United States is now a celebration of distinctly New Orleans culture as much as it is a festive release before Lent. From the music and the food to the costumes and the parades, Mardi Gras is New Orleans. Or, as legendary NOLA pianist Professor Longhair once sang, “If you go to New Orleans / You ought to go see the Mardi Gras.”
At first, the people who participated in the festivities were of mostly French or Catholic heritage.
Eventually, though, it morphed into a citywide party more secular than religious in nature.
In addition to the Gulf Coast of the United States, Mardi Gras celebrations occur throughout the world. In Brazil, where it is known as Carnival, it is the nation’s most celebrated and well-known holiday. It’s also a major event in Belgium, the Cayman Islands, the Netherlands, and Germany.
No matter where Mardi Gras happens, it’s always something of a bacchanalian feast.
In our darkest moments, it can be hard to believe joy can be found again. But one amazing dog proves that no matter what happens, through love and patience, we can make the world a better place. Chi Chi is a golden retriever who was found in a dumpster by an animal rescue group in South Korea. Badly injured and left in a garbage bag with her legs bound together, the only way to save Chi Chi’s life was to amputate all four of her legs. As she recovered, the call went out to find a family who could care for a dog with serious medical needs. As a quadruple amputee, just getting Chi Chi’s prosthetics on so she could go outside in the morning would be time-consuming. Fortunately, Elizabeth Howell from Arizona saw a video about Chi Chi’s plight online. “She stole my heart,” Howell said, taken by how Chi Chi was still wagging her tail despite her injuries. After seeing Chi Chi’s perseverance and her will to live, Elizabeth and her family took on the challenge. There were struggles as Chi Chi learned to trust people again, but with time, Chi Chi found peace and joy with her new family. Chi Chi the Rescue Dog A Quadruple Amputee Who Inspires the World
“She exemplifies resilience and forgiveness and willingly shares her love and compassion in abundance,” Howell has said. “Her sweet-tempered and gentle spirit opens people’s hearts and her perceptive spirit senses where her love is needed.” Chi Chi’s vet has called her a “miracle dog,” referring both to the fact that she survived losing all her legs and to the joy she brings to the world. Today, Chi Chi is a registered therapy dog, offering strength, love, and support to those who need it most. She visits VA hospitals, assisted living facilities, and children with disabilities. To celebrate her journey of survival, courage, and love, Chi Chi was honored with the American Humane Hero Dog Award in 2018. You can follow the adventures of this brave, loving canine at Facebook.com/ ChiChiRescueDog.
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What You Didn’t Know About
Fun Facts to Wow Your Loved Ones This Valentine’s Day
Chocolate is a treat savored by people all over the world. What we know as the sweet, creamy decadence that sustains Valentine’s Day actually has greater historical and cultural significance. Fermented chocolate drinks have been dated back to as early as 350 B.C. The Aztecs believed it was the beverage of wisdom, and the Mayans saw it as something to be worshipped. While the history of chocolate is as rich as its flavor, there are some common misconceptions about the treat. Dutch chocolate doesn’t necessarily refer to chocolate made in the Netherlands; the name refers to a specific chocolate-making process that uses the cocoa press. Before Dutch chemist and chocolate-maker C.J. van Houten invented the machine in 1828, chocolate was only used in beverages. Dutch chocolate is chocolate that has been modified
with an alkalizing agent in order to produce a milder flavor, making it a fantastic option for use in baked goods, candy, and ice cream.
German chocolate actually has nothing to do with the country of Germany, either. It used to be called “German’s chocolate,” named after its inventor, Sam German, an American who made sweet chocolate for baking. Adding sugar to the chocolate made it a go-to option for bakers around the world, and the base for German chocolate cake was born. For chocolate to be classified as Swiss, it has to be made in Switzerland, as chocolate-making is considered an art form in the country. Known for its “melt in your mouth” quality, Swiss chocolate uses condensed milk to add a velvety texture. Many chocolate makers outside of Switzerland will refer to their interpretations of Swiss chocolate as milk chocolate instead.
Take a Break!
EDIBLE VALENTINE’S DAY COOKIE CARDS Ingredients
• • • •
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 large egg yolks 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Royal icing, sprinkles, and edible markers, for decorating
2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1. Heat oven to 375 F. 2. In a mixing bowl, combine flour with sugar and salt. Add butter and combine using a mixer at low speed, until butter breaks down into small, crumbly pieces. Increase mixing speed tomedium andmix until butter and flour clump. 3. Add egg yolks and vanilla extract to bowl, returnmixer
to low, andmix until dough congeals. 4. Carefully roll dough into a sheet 1/16-inch thick and cut into 4x6-inch cards. 5. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, bake cookie cards for 6 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. 6. Let cookies cool completely, decorate, and distribute.
SOLUTION ON PAGE 4
Recipe courtesy of Food & Wine magazine.
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INSIDE THIS ISSUE From the Desk of Paul Stano PAGE 1 The Holiday of New Orleans PAGE 1 Three Cheers for Chi Chi! PAGE 2 All About Chocolate PAGE 3 Take a Break PAGE 3 Edible Valentine’s Day Cookie Cards PAGE 3 3 Ways to Improve Your Memory PAGE 4
STRENGTH OF MIND
Tips to Keep Memory Sharp and Improve Cognitive Function
Irish poet Oscar Wilde once called memory “the diary that we all carry about with us.” Of course, in Wilde’s time, the average life expectancy was less than 50 years old. As modern medicine continues to enable people to live longer, these “diaries” tend to become muddled. Fortunately, there are ways to counteract the natural dulling of our memory that comes with time. Just like any other muscle, our brain needs a workout in order to stay strong. As Dr. Celeste Robb-Nicholson of Harvard Medical School writes, “Challenging your brain with mental exercise is believed to activate processes that help maintain individual brain cells.” Activities like solving puzzles, learning a musical instrument, or picking up a new hobby work wonders to keep your PUZZLE YOURSELF
mind active and your memory sharp. These mental exercises are especially important after retirement, often to make up for the loss of stimulating challenges that work used to provide.
SPEND TIME WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Taking care of our physical health has also been shown to help brain function. According to a study by Sydney University in Australia, aerobic exercise is particularly good at jogging our memory. The researchers note that “aerobic exercise acts by preventing the usual decrease in neurogenesis associated with aging, thus resulting in greater retention of neural matter — particularly in the hippocampus.” In short, exercises like swimming and running keep the part of our brain responsible for memory from shrinking.
Humans are social creatures. Many studies have shown that being a part of a supportive social group can significantly benefit our physical and mental health. In fact, the American Journal of Public Health reports that people who have daily contact with friends and family cut their risk of dementia and mental impairment almost in half. Our mental diaries may be longer and fuller than they were in Wilde’s day, but if we fill those pages with hobbies, exercise, and close friends, our memories will remain sharp and vivid for the rest of our days.
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