Mardi Gras Parade Essentials

Now that you know my favorite Mardi Gras parades I would like to give you some tips to have a better carnival experience.  I was spoiled as a child to have a spot a block from the parade route my family would celebrate Mardi Gras.  It would be a big pot luck event with all essentials close by including the restroom! When we no longer did this, we would have to figure it out ourselves.  

I have spent years in heat, cold, and rain.  The days can be long and here are my personal recommendations for your parade day gear.

Be Prepared

Firstly, the weather in South Mississippi is as fickle as a lead star in a soap opera.  Each year can host a variety of climate conditions. (And when you think it can’t get any worse, it will!)  Some years are extremely cold while others can be hot or even rainy. One year, in the 1950s there were even snow flurries!  

Also take into consideration that you will need to get to the route early to have a spot to park and stand.  Then afterwards, the traffic leaving can be deadlocked for a good while. Think of possible scenarios and use this list to plan accordingly.  

Tumblers 

Whether you like hot or cold drinks, alcoholic, caffeinated, sweet, bitter or whatever, you will still need a way to keep them at the temperature you want.  It is easiest to fill tumblers with what you need for the day so you can stop and go visiting as most of us do along the parade route. Also do not forget to stay safely hydrated with water as well!

Toilet Paper, Tissues, and Wipes

Plan to have to use the porta potties for the parade.  If you are lucky enough to find an establishment with a bathroom, do not count on toilet paper with the amount of foot traffic experienced on parade days.  Therefore, bring tissues to use as toilet paper or stuff a roll in your bag before leaving home.

Hand Sanitizer 

I have seen some bathrooms in devastating states after Mardi Gras.  Be prepared for a possible lack of cleanliness and soap. Also think of door handles, sticky hands from king cake, and even the throws from the ground.  So keep a small bottle handy on your person throughout the day.

Wagon or Rolling Cart

This is essential if you are planning to park your car away and walk.  Or if you are energetic and want to catch the parade in two spots. Use the cart to haul your kids or your loot from the day.  

Sunscreen and Sunglasses

Even on years that it is overcast.  Being outside all day can cause some wicked face and back of neck sunburns.  Be sure to use sunscreen and reapply during the day. I have so many friends that come back to work the day after Mardi Gras looking like a lobster.  Sunglasses can also help you avoid being hit with beads while staring at the sun’s glare.  

 Head Gear 

Cute little head pieces have been all the rage over the recent years.  Originally, all people riding in the parades had to wear masks. Now everyone wears cute headbands.  You may not want to be left out. Otherwise, you can done on a hat to protect your head from the sun or rain or whatever the weather decides to do.  

Comfortable Shoes

Even if you have a place close by to park, you can still be in for a lot of walking if you want to see others that day or grab something from a shop where the roads are blocked.  You will certainly be standing for the length of the parade. It is important to have some comfortable shoes or you every step leaving the fun could be painful.  

Hot Hands (If it is Cold)

These are a great way to keep a little warm on cold days.  Some of the night parades especially tend to get cold. Keep your feet toasty by putting them in your shoes too!  

Snacks

Some places close for Mardi Gras, and others raise their prices.  If you are not set up with a group or pot luck, I would pack a few easy snacks to have that day.  Expect crowds at restaurants and possible long waits for food. You do not want to be in a long restaurant line with only mushed moon pies to eat!

Cash and ID

Cash is king on Mardi Gras Day.  You can find groups selling snacks and goods around the route.  Also it is easier to pay cash quickly in some places while others will only take cash that day. Once, the ATM in downtown Ocean Springs was actually out of cash the night of their parade.  So stock up before hand and keep your ID on you if you plan to go anywhere that serves alcohol.  

Let the Good Times Roll!

Or in Mardi Gras speak, just go with it.  Think ahead and check the weather. Call ahead to places you may want to eat.  Ask friends for advice. However, that may not account for all scenarios that may occur.  But no matter what happens you are still in for a good time, or at least a fun story.  

What are your Mardi Gras parade essentials?  

Mardi Gras Parade Essentials
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3 Mardi Gras Parades Not to Miss on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

If you are looking for parades during Marie Gras season on the Gulf Coast you are in luck!  There are plenty of parades beginning from January to Mardi Gras Day. There are even more options if you are willing to travel to Mobile or Louisiana.  You can count on night parades and day parades to suit your own needs. Since there are so many options, I here is a list of my top 3 and why I like them.  

Why I Love Gulf Coast Parades 

I grew up attending these parades.  They are way less crowded than the New Orleans parades.  As I mentioned in my Mardi Gras nostalgia post last year, some of these parades were opportunities for family reunions.  My high school marching band would spend the weekends leading up to Mardi Gras performing in these parades.  They were long but fun times bringing energy to the crowds.  

Unlike our neighbors in Mobile and New Orleans, our parades are a little less crowded.  They are also certainly more family friendly with stricter drinking laws. You can expect to see several parades within a weekend leading up to Mardi Gras. 

Based on my memories and experiences here are some of my favorite projects.  

Ocean Springs Night Parade

I began attending the Ocean Springs Night Parades after Katrina in 2006.  Back then, the Gulf Coast was still recovering so the parade turned and went through the route twice!  Back then people even decorated their boats, put them in trailers, and ran them through the parade as well.  Because of these nostalgic memories, I still love going to the parade. The section of route on Government Street has become tremendously crowded.  I recommend watching the parade on Porter Avenue instead.  

The parade always runs the Friday before Fat Tuesday.  More information on this parade can be found here.  

Biloxi Day Parade 

This is the peak of Mardi Gras.  The downtown Biloxi Parade on Mardi Gras Day is the big event.  It is where the Gulf Coast Carnival Associations royalty ride. It culminates with a toast by Queen Ixolib and King D’Iberville in front of City Hall on Lameuse Street.  It usually rides around noon, but I do recommend going in early because I10 and Highway 90 can become very backed up.  

If you want the party to continue, Gulfport’s night parade begins in the evening of Mardi Gras Day.  

D’Iberville/North Bay Mardi Gras Parade

North Bay Parade always rolls the Sunday before Mardi Gras.  It is a long parade as well as a long parade route. That means there are plenty of bead catching opportunities.  There are also plenty of parking spots, but take care to heed signs in order to not park on private property. There are more businesses to visit while waiting for the parade on the D’Iberville side.  

You can enjoy some delicious Vietnamese food before the parade too!

Other Parades Along the Coast

If you cannot make these parades, don’t worry!  There are plenty in each coastal county and a few further north like I mentioned above.  To see a complete list of parades and routes check out Gulf Coast Weekend to see a schedule with the route maps.  

Mississippi Gulf Coast Parades
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What Mardi Gras Parade is your favorite?  

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Coffee Butter … That’s a Thing?

It is no secret that I love coffee!  Going further than my multiple cups a day, I also love coffee flavored things.  I have a stash of coffee hard candies in my drawer at the library. Also, tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts!  Little did I know that there was something else coffee I have been missing out on. When I was visiting the Florence Gardens Farmers Market in November, I discovered Cafe Rubia.  Alessandra is a Brazilian woman selling her family recipe for coffee butter.  After tasting some, I quickly purchased a jar and am now a coffee butter convert.  

Coffee Butter
I always like starting with coffee!

What is it? 

Coffee butter is a spreadable, lightly whipped treat.  Like the name states, it is made of ground coffee beans.  I must say that the spread is different than the trend of bulletproof coffee.  Bulletproof coffee is when actual butter is added to liquid coffee before you drink it.  Coffee butter is a ground spread without actual butter as an ingredient. Coffee does contain caffeine!  

Uses of Coffee Butter

There are several uses of coffee butter in daily life and cooking.  Here are some uses: 

  • Make a Homemade Latte– I would heat a small cup of milk and stir in the coffee butter.  It is creamy and delicious.  
  • Ice Cream Topper–  Jazz up a bowl of ice cream with some coffee butter spread on top. 
  • Coffee Flavored Desserts-Use coffee butter as a base or add into desserts.  Think of how delicious dark coffee flavored brownies could be! 
  • Iced Coffee–  Use coffee butter as a creamy alternative to iced coffee base.
  • Smoothie Add In– Put some coffee butter in your smoothie to add some much needed energy to it.
  • As a Unique Smear or Spread-I love eating bread with different spreads.  Coffee butter is good on toast or bagels.  

Make Your Own!

I have found several options for making your own on Pinterest and web searches.  I like the directions and simple ingredients at Epicurious here.  (This recipe does actually call for actual butter.)  You will need a mixer to make it smooth and spreadable.  

Coffee Butter
Coffee butter goes great with warm milk to make drinks!

Buy Your Own!

If you do not have time to make your own and live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  I would recommend catching Cafe Rubia at the Ocean Springs Farmer’s Market or visit one of the locations selling her product around the city.  Here are some options you can find on Amazon below! (Disclosure: Please read the reviews because I have not tried them yet because of my No Spend.)  

**Make sure to check the labels if you have any allergies or contact the seller.

Find Your Coffee Buzz

Whether you make your own or buy a jar, you will find some enjoyment in the coffee taste.  I have enjoyed using it in making my own cozy warm lattes and as a spread on digestive cookies.  In the future, I hope to cook with it and make some creative coffee, desert creations.  

Coffee Butter
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How would you use coffee butter?

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A Valentine to My Favorite Blogs

There are so many great blogs out there!  It is overwhelming the choices out on the World Wide Web.  I have been an avid reader of blogs since my LiveJournal Days back in 2004.  Now, I love seeing some of them grow and evolve. It is also amazing seeing my friends grow as writers in their own blog.  So here is my list of favorite blogs!

The Occasional Genealogist 

Why I love it…

I really appreciate her intentional and organized approach to genealogical research.  She uses her process to be efficient with her time. Jennifer has her own courses and printables as well to help you get started.  She keeps her website clear and up to date. So many of the genealogy blogs I used to follow have become out of date and garbled. 

Lisa Markle Sparkles 

Why I love it…

Lisa has been a great friend for awhile now!  She has her own TpT and Etsy shop based on clipart and teaching littles.  I love peeking into Lisa’s creative world. She offers how tos and creative tips to get you started on your own creative business.  

Teacher New Island 

Why I love it…

My friend Lauren began a big Facebook group called VIPKid Newbie Island.  Now she has a website for resources for VIPKid teachers.  Lauren also goes over vocal health and hosting teacher meet ups.  Keep a lookout for more helpful content.  

Elisabeth and Butter

Why I love it…

I first heard about this website when she was interviewed on Say It Southern.  Elisabeth began baking in her parents kitchen and made her first wedding cake in high school!  She began a desert centered Instagram in college, and now has her own business based on baking.  I love her aesthetic and recipes.  

Plain Chicken 

Why I love it…

Plain Chicken’s recipe for white beans has been a go to recipe for me for years.  All of the recipes are simple and concise. She is another Southern food writer, and I love her take on southern stapes.  Seriously, the Mississippi Sin recipe will change your life and party. 

Travelettes 

Why I love it…

They had me at their tag line “Backpacking in Heels.”  I stumbled upon this site when I was researching packing methods.  It has developed into a beautiful space dedicated to female travelers.  Their Facebook community is great too!

Her Packing List 

Why I love it…

The title is self explanatory, but it takes travel prep a step forward.  There are sections for specific product reviewed. My favorite posts are where real travelers show off their packing list in practice for specific trips in certain seasons. 

Tabsy Wabsy 

Why I love it…

Tabitha’s blog is a quick read that shares a lot of things I love.  She mostly does book reviews about her current reads. Lately, she has been posting daily recipes!  

Double Stacked Bookshelves 

Why I love it…

My friend Melissa and I both had blogs when we lived in Edinburgh studying at the university.  She has continued on to morph her page into “Double-Stacked Bookshelves.” (While my Edinburgh blog lays long abandoned.)  I always have fun reading her April A-Z series.  

What are your favorite blogs? 

My Favorite Blogs
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How to Have a Vintage Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day in the past was celebrated with the same mythical reverence as All Hallows’ Eve.  There were homemade parties, costumes, and fortune telling games across communities. Today there is so much plastic and commercialism that I want to create an homage to some of these old traditions.  

My first memories of Valentine’s Day was decorating my own shoebox for Valentine’s.  I am from the generation of pre-printed 2D Valentine’s cards. (Bonus points if you can staple a piece of candy to your Valentine!). We would eat cupcakes and cookies.  Fortunately, we are from a time where homemade treats were still allowed to be brought to the classroom.  

How to Have a Vintage Valentine’s Day
Valentine courtesy of the Elder Collection at the Local History and Genealogy Department Biloxi Public Library

A Little Valentine’s Day History

Of course, the basic concept of Valentine’s Day began in Roman times with the fertility and festival of spring Lupercalia.  Later it was changed to honor a few Christian martyrs named Valentine, of course. By the late 1600s, people were recording sending personalized homemade Valentine’s loved ones.  The Victorians were all over the holiday. The first commercial commercially produced cards came about in 1846.  

Although I am all about not spending money for Valentine’s Day, I enjoyed reading about the DIY Valentine’s parties of the past.  I particularly enjoyed reading about the parties before World War I when things became simpler for war time.  I found some fun descriptions of parties in Genealogy Bank newspaper database.  

Party Menu 

Refreshments at these get together always entailed heart shaped things.  Heart shaped sandwiches, cookies, and cakes. Some even mentioned custard molds as well in the shape of hearts.  Most featured a frosted cake as the centerpiece of the spread. There was a party game where charms were baked in the cake as a fortunes for the guests.  You can a cookbook of recipes from 1910 here.  

How to Have a Vintage Valentine’s Day
Valentine courtesy of the Elder Collection at the Local History and Genealogy Department Biloxi Public Library

Set the Scene and Decorate 

The newspaper articles described the decorations in detail.  Rooms covered in thousands of red paper hearts and ribbons were popular.  Another element was using tropical plants in the decorations. Some mentioned red cardboard hearts with a background of green foliage circa 1913.  Red carnations were also popular flowers to use in early party schemes. They also recommend subduing lights with tissue paper or sheets to ‘set a mood.’ 

How to Have a Vintage Valentine’s Day
Valentine courtesy of the Elder Collection at the Local History and Genealogy Department Biloxi Public Library

Games and Entertainment 

I feel like party games have gone to the wayside.  Although, I would not take back fun nights playing Apples to Apples or the Game of Things for anything.  It is nostalgic to think of day where we had to find our own entertainment before television or smart phones.  Here is a list of cute games: 

-Blow bubbles through a hanging. heart ring.  

-Hide small hearts around the room to find like Easter eggs in order to win a prize.  (Prize for the most or finding a prize gold heart.) 

-Make heart puzzles to put together at a kid’s table. 

-Have a Cupid spinner that tells fortunes.  

-Have guests draw paper fortunes from a Valentine’s box.  

-Create a target with hearts and shoot heart darts or arrows at the target.  Make the heart with cardboard and colorful paper. 

There is even a cute song to go with the heart target game:

“If your arrow hits the white.  Watch! Your lover comes tonight.

If your arrow hits the blue.  The one you love will prove true.  

Wealth and pleasure and yellow gold.  But no true love does this heart hold.  

If the arrow hits the red.  You, I fear, will never wed.

If your arrow hits the black.  Something good your love doth lack.”

From:  “Valentine Day Parties” Colorado Springs Gazette.  February 12, 1905, pg. 28.

How to Have a Vintage Valentine’s Day
Valentine courtesy of the Elder Collection at the Local History and Genealogy Department Biloxi Public Library

Gifts From the Heart 

Gifts have not changed from the beginning.  Cards, flowers, and candy were still the predominant gifts given in the past.  Each party recommended having prizes and favors for your guests to bring home. Think of something cute and creative like tissue paper flowers or homemade candy to go with decor.  

What’s your favorite Valentine’s Day memory?  

How to Have a Vintage Valentine’s Day
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No Spend Valentines Ideas

As I continue on my No Spend months this year, I am faced with a dilemma of how to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  Technically, my rules allow to buy gives and celebrated holidays. However, I prefer not to get too crazy with spending on such a commercial holiday.  Plus the crowds are something else that evening. Ed and I have not gone out for Valentine’s in years. We have found enjoyment in simplicity and enjoying each other’s company.

So I thought of some no spend and low spend ideas for others to have a nice holiday.  

No Spend Valentines Ideas
Enjoy dinner and dessert at home this Valentine’s Day.

Cook a Romantic Dinner at Home

When choosing to cook at home, you are not limited to places that take reservations that night.  All manner of cuisine is available when you choose to enjoy a dinner at home. Edward has created many unique dishes for the holidays not just Valentines.  My favorite was one Valentine’s when he made mussels and fries in honor of our past trip to France.  

Take some time to plan ahead before cooking at home. (Although it is alright if you want to just have a Valentine’s Day Taco Tuesday!) If you want to make a fantastic meal, check out sales at Sams and other stores.  That way you may score something special like lobster for a reasonable price. Light some candles, bust out the China, and enjoy the meal. 

Grab Some Blankets and Stargaze 

A few years ago, there was a meteor shower with some visibility. So a group of us hopped in the truck and drove up to De Soto National Forest to watch the meteors.  It was a fun show. You can find your own way to enjoy the stars. Whether it is filling a truck bed with an air mattress and comforter in order to look up at the stars.  Another option is to make a fire on a beach. Do not forget to pack warm clothes and hot drinks.

No Spend Valentines Ideas
Stargaze under the nights sky this Valentines.

Create a Home Theater 

No need to look at a small television for the night.  Borrow or rent a projector and you will be in business.  There is also no reason to spend money for a screen. Find a blank wall or hang a light patternless sheet to make the screen.  (Tip: Some libraries are doing physical check outs now like sewing machines and cake pans. Check with your local library for a program like that!)  Make you favorite flavor of popcorn balls and buy some sodas in glass bottles. You will feel the cinematic charm in no time!

Take a Hike 

I recommend a winter hike since it is still too cold to paddle in most places.  Find a place that is unique or special. You can even make it a fun photo scavenger hunt to have some fun mementos at the end of the hike.  Challenge yourselves to find somewhere new to hike or look for hidden treasures around your community. Maybe there is a secret art instillation or a hidden waterfall.  

Finish a Project for a Surprise Gift

If you really need to give your significant other a special gift think of any projects you may have started.  (Currently, I have started crocheted baby Yoda with only a few inches completed.) Think of things hidden in your closet or drawers.  Can something be refashioned into a fun gift. Maybe you owe them a flower bed or a fixed gate. If not, take stock of the things you have that could be used to make a gift.  Maybe you have enough scrapbooking paper to create a thoughtful memory book or collage of funny moments.     

Hint:  You can type the materials you have into Pinterest and see if there are projects posted using them!  

No Spend Valentine’s Ideas
Raid your craft drawers and make a gift.

Write a Sweet Letter, Story, or Poem

Another way to give something that is personal and meaningful.  There are tons of writing prompts online that you can use to get started.  This is another way to use all that pretty stationary or paper stockpiled from years of crafty projects.  (Or is that just me?) You do not have to be Shakespeare or Keats to write something meaningful. Think of how that person makes you feel.  Your favorite memory or even your “how we met” story to get started.  

Create a Meaningful Playlist and Yummy Dessert 

Back in high school, I would get a friend to download mixed CDs for me.  Sometimes, I would get them to burn one for my boy of the hour as a gift.  Now it is much easier to create playlists on iTunes or Amazon Music. So take some time and make a queue of meaningful music to enjoy on a Valentine’s dessert date.  It is much cheaper to bake or make a special sweet treat. With the price of chocolate dipped strawberries, it is another great way to save money.  

Find a Free Event to Attend 

If you are having a Galentines (girl’s night) or feeling social for Valentine’s look on events near you.  Facebook has a way to search events near you. The newspaper also lists community events as well. There could be free concerts, dances, and movies that night.  

What are your ideas for a low spend Valentine’s Day?  

No Spend Valentines Ideas
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Your Hedgehog Questions Answered

Living with hedgehogs for over the past five years has turned into an adventure.  When I got my first little hedgie in 2014 I had no idea what I was getting into. It was fun to learn their quirks and realize that the grumpiness never goes away.  My first hedgehog was from a breeder, but the others came to live with me when they needed a new home. Each one taught me something new about hedgehog husbandry.  

In honor of National Hedgehog Day today, I am answering hedgehog questions from my social media.  (Yes, they share the same day as the groundhog. It is said that the groundhog actually could have been a hedgehog in Europe due to their hibernation patterns.) 

Your Hedgehog Questions Answered
My first hedgehog Prickles as a hoglet.

How did you pick a hedgie as a pet?

Originally, I wanted to get a cute bunny, and had hundreds of images pinned of them on Pinterest.  Then the Instagram revolutions of cute hedgehogs starting with Biddy the hedgehog began to take over my feed.  They were so cute and small that I could not resist!  When I made a comment to Ed he joked that he had, “a hedgehog guy.”  Turns out a couple were breeding them in locally and I followed them on Facebook.  A few months later they posted a litter ready for new homes. I pulled out cash and got my first hedgehog Prickles.  She was little and perfect! Since then, my home has not been without a hedgehog.  

Are they hard to take care of?  I’ve always wanted one!

I would not say hedgehogs are difficult to take care of.  But it can be tricky rearing them. It is important to research thoroughly before making a commitment.  They have specific dietary and temperature requirements. Things that are okay for pets like guinea pigs and hamsters are not suitable for hedgehogs.  No wheel should have any holes in order avoid their toes being caught and feet injured. (Ditto goes for those clear hamster balls.) They will hibernate and have organ shut down if they are kept in a room under 72 degrees without a secondary heat source.

However, they are low maintenance with daily socialization and live a quiet life.  

Your Hedgehog Questions Answered
Penelope snuggled in her fleece blanket.

What is the toughest part about taking care of hedgies.

Other than temperature mentioned above, it is difficult to tell when they are sick.  They are good and hiding sickness until very serious symptoms begin to show. When this happens, they must be seen by an exotic vet that has experience with them.  Sometimes in smaller communities one must travel further to find a vet that will treat hedgehogs. There is a directory of hedgehog approved vets here.  

The other difficult part is the same as all pets.  Losing them is so sad and I still miss all my hedgehogs that have passed on.  

How long do they usually live?

Hedgehogs live between an average of 3-6 years.  Some can live longer, but it is like seeing a 100 year old person when that happens.  All of my hedgehogs have started showing health issues beginning at 3 years.  

What is your favorite part of having hedgehogs as pets?

I love the hedgehog’s grumpy and sassy personality.  I feel they are more expressive than a lot of small animals.  Every hedgehog I have owned has its own personality. My current 2 are different as well.  Lulu, my older female, will huff and puff in her cage. Then she will snuggle and sleep on my lap while I am watching television or reading.  My younger male, Finn, will greet me every morning in his cage when I wake up to teach. He is curious and energetic. Therefore, he loves rooting around the pop up playpen I found on Amazon.  

My hedgehogs have done well with my busy two job schedule.  They are cheerful in the morning and do not mind me being gone during the day because they are asleep anyway.  

Your Hedgehog Questions Answered
Too cute not to share again. Benny on a coffee date with me.

Do they need daily exercise?

Yes, but they can get most of their exercise from a bucket wheel in their cage.  My hedgehogs run most of the night on the wheel. This is because they will run miles in the desert in the wild.  (American domesticated hedgehogs are a hybrid of 2 desert hedgehogs found in northern Africa.) I do make a point to let them explore around some safe areas supervised for enrichment.  They should not be left ignored in their cages.  

Are they social animals?  How much time do you spend with them?  

Hedgehogs by nature are prey animals.  So they are cautious and reserved. They also have terrible eye-sight with great senses of hearing and smell.  So they have a standoffish even angry nature. However, if you take time to spend every day handling your hedgehog they begin to associate your scent with someone they can trust.  My hedgehogs are usually happy to see me once they get a good sniff. I try to spend 30 minutes a day with my hedgehogs and sometimes alternate which hedgehog I take out.  

If you leave them be, they will become more and more difficult.  

Your Hedgehog Questions Answered
Lulu and her friend Made by @Lisamarklesparkles

What monthly cost goes to caring for hedgehogs? 

Most cost of owning a hedgehog goes into setting up the cage.  That can range from anywhere to 100 or more. I probably have 150 in each hedgehog enclosure.  The other big expense is Vet bills if they get sick. However, monthly costs are probably about 10-20 dollars.  I use high quality cat food that a medium bag lasts months and insects as treats. (A container of live meal worms from PetSmart is less than 4 dollars.)  The other cost is shredded paper bedding. I buy a 10 pound box from Amazon and it lasts over 3 months for one hedgehog.  This year, I am looking to change to fleece linings for both hedgehogs to make their cages more sustainable and avoid the cost of buying bedding.    

Your Hedgehog Questions Answered
Finn the naughty hedgie!

For More Information:

I must put a warning that I am not a veterinarian and am basing my answers on research as well as my experience.  Best practices in hedgehog rearing are evolving and some things change. Things that were fine for my first hedgehog are now put to the side for different recommendations.  There are some great resources if you want to know more. I recommend subscribing to Sploot News or finding websites like How to Hedgehog to start your research journey.  

Your Hedgehog Questions Answered
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What do you love about hedgehogs?

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Tips for Learning a New Language as an Adult

I have tried several times to learn a new language since leaving school.  With studying history, I thought it was a good idea to learn Latin and only took 2 semesters of Spanish in high school.  Anytime I got interested in a new travel destination or culture, I would start a new Duolingo lesson or pin a bunch of info graphs about it on Pinterest.  It has only been this past year, that I have made any headway in actually creating a foundation for language learning.  

In March, I began learning Mandarin through Verbling.  When I went to China in September, I was able to functionally use what I learned to navigate streets and order food.  

Tips for Learning a New Language as an Adult
My Chinese language learning journey helped me build a foundation.

Why is it so darn difficult!? 

For someone with a high reading comprehension level and decent memory, it has perplexed me how I could not retain language.  There are many reasons for this. The main thing is that it is proven harder to learn languages as an adult. There are 2 memory systems in our brain and the one used in childhood helps quickly learn language components like grammar rules.  That is why my little students with VIPKid pick up English so quickly while also learning other languages as well.  

There are also lifestyle problems of trying to study during a busy adult life.  I can practice a few key vocabulary words and forget them by the evening time after working both jobs.  Here are my tips to combat these challenges and get you on the way to language learning success.  

Pay for a Program 

Although I promote a No Spend lifestyle, I do recommend finding a reliable program to pay for language learning. There is no need to pay for an expensive program like Rosetta Stone or college classes.  But a little investment can be a big motivator in studying and spending time on language learning. I found myself motivated by investing my money in my language learning journey.  There are programs cropping up daily. I liked using Verbling where I chose my own teacher for FaceTime classes.  The instructors can name their own price and there are numerous languages available. 

Tips for Learning a New Language as an Adult
Find a a program and get busy learning!

Watch Foriegn Shows on Streaming Service

This was not an option for me when I first left school and Netflix was still sending DVDs in the mail.  (Do they still even do that?) The vast amount of content is incredible for the under 10 dollar price tag we pay a month for streaming services.  I have found a fantastic selection of subtitled movies and tv shows to listen to the native language. There is also a great array on Amazon Prime streaming.  

Watching media of the language you are learning really helps listening skills and pronunciation development.  They are also a great way to get a sneak peek into the culture of the country too.  

Listen to Songs

While learning Chinese, I developed a love for listening to the Meteor Garden and Crazy Rich Asians Soundtrack on Amazon Music.  If you can retrieve a translation, listening to music is a catchy way to practice vocabulary. Tunes a great way to encourage memorization.  You do not have to pay for a music streaming service either. Just do a quick YouTube search and you will be in business for all kinds of songs.  If you want a variety, Pandora has stations as well focusing on international music.  

Use Old School Flashcards 

You cannot go wrong with this traditional memorization method.  Using them is a great way to take a break from technology and minimize screen fatigue.  I do them in categories like verbs, colors, food, and others. It is best to write them in order to reinforce memory.

If you do not have time, phone apps like Memrise have preloaded cards and games already built in.  

Find Ways to Incorporate the Language Daily 

This is the most important of all.  Take time to practice the language. Say it to yourself while you drive alone, write phrases, or find a friend to practice.  The app Tandem is a great way to find someone else who you can practice with while they can practice English.  This can be done in person or on FaceTime. The day after my Verbling classes, I would repeat the sentences and words learned over and over. I would also record myself and listen to my own pronunciation again Google translate.  

Without context, the language will be lost.  

Tips for Learning a New Language as an Adult
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Do you know another language?  How did you learn them?  

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My Favorite Podcasts of 2020

I love podcasts!  They are part of my routine almost daily.  I often complete a podcast or two while I walk.  Podcasts are also good entertainment when I do not have an audiobook to listen to in the car.  They can make tedious chores like folding laundry, washing dishes, and sweeping more enjoyable.  In 2018, I posted a list of my favorite podcasts. I still love these podcasts, but I have found more!  

I recommended using podcasts to learn new things in my 20 Things to do in 2020 list earlier this month.  Here are my newest favorites, and why I love them! 

Podcasts for 2020
Listening to podcasts has become a big part of my daily routine.

RISE with Rachel Hollis 

The book Girl Wash Your Face was one of my best reads in 2018.  Her other non-fiction book Girl Stop Apologizing gave me a good jolt of encouragement to begin planning my future business endeavors.  It was a thrill to see all the wisdom she is also has to share on her podcast Rise. She has a mix of solo episodes as well as interviews with leaders in various fields.  

Many of the episodes are focused on building businesses and productivity.  She branches out into lifestyle as well talking about dressing for success and taking care of you.  Hollis has some great episodes related to mental and physical health as well. She began the podcast in 2017 so there is plenty in the archive.

Extra Credit 

VIPKid brand ambassador Michael Venn has been hosting a podcast for a few seasons now.  It focuses mainly on online teaching on the VIPKid platform. However, he does talk about diversifying teaching experiences and growing creative businesses.  He has had big names on the show like Nancy Taylor and Jennifer Anderson.  (He even interviewed yours truly last season for episode 25!)

This podcast is great for the veteran online teacher and those looking to get started.  You can learn more at his website.

Say It Southern 

This podcast is another recent find.  I love the format of interview shows since they always have new perspectives and fresh content.  The ladies of Say It Southern have made it their mission to seek out and interview successful Southern women.  It warms my heart to hear from ladies with the same values and go getter attitude as me. The southern references are also not lost to me!

Check it out and find hope as well as inspiration in their stories. 

Favorite Podcasts of 2020
What podcasts do you like?

Southern Lady Code

I am sad to say this little podcast gem only has about 15 short, but delightful episodes.  The host used it to promote her book by the same title.  Helen Ellis is a southern transplant that currently lives in New York City.  Each episode, she takes a set of southern phrases and decodes them. She uses her own experiences to entertain and describe the meaning of common southern jargon.  Sometimes my sides hurt from laughing as she describes her favorite things as well with her delightful southern wit.

Do You Even Blog?

Another podcast that is great for those ready to start a creative business.  Originally Pete, the creator and host, focused on developing blog content. He has branched out and worked with other creatives.  He now also discusses YouTube and Podcast development. Most recently, he interviewed bullet journal YouTube star Matt Ragland. There are so many topics to get you started on monetizing your own creative path.  

Better(ish)

This podcast is like a coffee or wine date with some dear friends.  As the title suggests, the show is not about having a Pinterest perfect life, but try for a little something more. Their banter is so funny and it reminds me that we all struggle a little bit.  I enjoyed their real talk in their New Year’s Not Resolutions episode. It was amusing to hear their advice on how to become a reader. Simply read Harry Potter, and I have to agree!

Get started listening in order to find your own way to live Better(ish).  

How To Find Them 

All podcasts mentioned are available on free streaming services.  That includes Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Sound Cloud. Use them to occupy your time and learn some new things!  I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.  

What is your favorite podcast? 

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission is you click through and make a purchase.

Guide to Vietnamese Food on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

I can eat Vietnamese food every single day.  It is fragrant and delicious. Luckily for me, I can get it all over Biloxi and D’Iberville.  There are so many more options than just their famous soup Pho. (It is pronounced Phuh.) If you live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, or anywhere near a Vietnamese restaurant, and have not tried some you are missing out!  The Gulf Coast has always had a rich gastronomic history and it has only been made better by the arrival of Vietnamese immigrants in the 1970s.  

In honor of Lunar New Year this week, I would like to honor and recommend these wonderful foods and places to try.  

Guide to Mississippi Food on the Mississippi Gulf Coast
Vietnamese food is a feast for the eyes and mouth!

Vietnamese Along the Gulf Coast 

The country of Vietnam has a long coast and its own maritime history.  Immigrants found a home in the seafood centered Biloxi after the Fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War.  The displaced families came to live on Point Cadet like so many before. (My family included!) Soon, food and shops specializing in Vietnamese food began to crop up along the Gulf Coast.  Even after changing times and demographics Vietnamese is still the most common non-English language spoken in the entire state of Mississippi.  As of the Census in 2010, over 7,000 Vietnamese Americans live in Mississippi. 

Vietnamese Food Influences 

Southeast Asia has many factors influencing its food.  For years, Vietnam was under French control that influenced its cooking.  There is also Asian components like hot noodle soups and rice based dishes.  There are all forms of steam buns and dumplings. Vietnamese cooking can also take influence from curries and spices found in near by Thailand.  Even if you think that you do not like Vietnamese food, read on and see all the variety available to you!  

The Bahn Mi 

Where I live, we have a sandwich we all call a poboy.  It is often served with roast beef or seafood. However, there is another sandwich well loved as well.  Bahn mi in Vietnamese simply means ‘bread.’ It is a sandwich using traditional french bread. There is a range of variety found inside.  Most come with a homemade mayonnaise and or pate spread inside. They are topped with cilatro, jalepeno, and a type of carrot/daikon relish.  My favorite fillings are the sweet marinated pork or traditional Vietnamese cold cuts. There is also fillings like curried chicken, meatball (nothing like the Italian meatball), and so many other flavor combos.  

Where to get one…

Le Bakery 

280 Oak Street, Biloxi, MS 

Le Bakery has delicious breads and pastries.  They have been mentioned more than once for their King Cakes here.  However, they are one of the best spots to enjoy a bahn mi.  I love the lemongrass pork is a great place to start enjoying the delicious sandwich.  

Henry’s Cafe and Bakery 

10345 Automall Parkway, D’Iberville, MS

Henry’s is just over the bridge in D’Iberville.  They have a great list of sandwiches as well. My favorite is the meatball that is smashed into the bread. They also have a range of food including a full menu of pho, and other Vietnamese cuisine.  **NOTE: They only take cash so have some on hand for your visit.  

What the Pho?  

This is a fun play on the name used for one of the restaurants previously along the Gulf Coast.  Many people if they know one Vietnamese dish, know about Pho. It a hot noodle soup made in a broth that can take a good amount of time to make.  There are different varieties as well including pho ga (chicken), pho tai (rare beef), and others that include more unique add ins like tripe. I love pho and found in Ho Chi Minh City it was enjoyed at all hours of the day including breakfast.  The pho ga stand was so busy in the mornings that they had to hire a motorbike valet! It is a filling dish and I always recommend tasting the broth before adding any sriracha or hoisin sauce.  

A Guide to the Vietnamese Food on the Mississippi Gulf Coast
A delicious bowl of Pho Bo Vien!

Where to get some…

Kien Giang Restaurant 

10598 D’Iberville Boulevard, D’Iberville, MS 

This is my favorite Pho place around.  They have delicious soups and a good variety of other items like spring rolls.  

Vung Tau Restaurant 

156 Oak Street, Biloxi, MS

Named after a beach nearby to Ho Chi Minh City, this little spot has a big menu.  They have 10 varieties of Pho and also make bahn mi sandwiches as well.  

Hana Sushi and Pho

2667 Pass Road, Biloxi, MS 

You can enjoy a taste of Vietnam and Japan here!  They have a dual menu serving pho and sushi. The broth base is delicious and it is close to Edgewater Mall.  

Vermicelli Dishes 

Vermicelli is an extremely thin rice noodle that is a base for many different Vietnamese dishes.  It is often a filler in spring rolls. Vermicelli can also be paired with grilled pork or chicken with a piece of lettuce to create a refreshing wrap. My friend Abby in Vietnam introduced me to another vermicelli dish called bun cha.  It is a yummy concoction of with pork with a rich dipping sauce.  

Vermicelli can also be found in the noodle soup bun bo hue.  This is a dish I would call expert level. It has a variety of things including congealed blood.  I know it sounds gross, but it is delicious! You can get a great bowl at Henry’s Cafe mentioned above.  Actually, all three restaurants mentioned that serve pho also service different vermicelli creations.  

Guide to Vietnamese Food on the Mississippi Gulf Coast
Some delicious pork and noodles from Kien Giang

Bahn Bao and Other Buns 

Bahn bao is a little different than dumplings.  It has a soft and fluffy outer layer with egg or pork inside.  Some also contain barbeque beef. They were my favorite to go snack in Vietnam.  You can get them out of the case at Saigon Market in D’Iberville or Lee’s International Market in Biloxi.  

Cafe Sua Da and Another Coffee Nation

There is a coffee shop commercial or independently owned all over Vietnam.  A growing cafe culture is booming across the country. Where tea dominates most of Asia, Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee besides Brazil in the world.  Their coffee is rich and dark. The signature drink is the cafe sua da. It is dark roast drip coffee mixed with condensed milk while the coffee is still hot. It is then poured over ice.  This drink is so addictive! There are several places to get one along the Gulf Coast including Henry’s and Le Bakery. Coffee Fusion in Ocean Springs and their sister shop Boba and Beanz in Edgewater Mall also have a good version.  My actual first taste of the sua da was from Coffee Fusion after graduating from USM.  

If you want to make one at home, you can get the drip containers cheap at the Asian markets locally and use Cafe Du Monde Roast with Chicory.  

A Guide to Vietnamese Food on the Gulf Coast
A delicious Cafe Sua Da on a hot day!

Bubble Tea and Milk Teas

Bubble tea also known as milk tea has been a craze for awhile.  Although it originated in Taiwan, there are some great places in D’Iberville to get these sweet drinks.  There are other Vietnamese dessert drinks that come with different jellies, flavors, coconut water, and finely shaved ice.  They are a great way to enjoy a sweet treat on a hot day. If you want out of your comfort zone I recommend trying a different flavor like taro a sweet flavor from a purple potato like plant or grass jelly added into your drink.  

Where to get one…

Bambu Desserts and Drinks

3680 Sangani Boulevard, D’Iberville, MS 

This place has it all.  You can view their impressive menu here.  There is a range of teas, smoothies, juices, and coffee drinks.  They also serve a delicious dessert waffle made with pandan and have a fridge full of mochi.  I love the taro lover dessert and their classic milk tea with egg pudding.  

Quickly Asian Fusion Cafe 

11516 Lamey Bridge Road, D’Iberville, MS

Their kimchi fries with a fried egg are one of my favorite temptations before going to see a movie around the corner.  However, they have so many combinations of flavors for milk teas that I cannot keep count of them all. This shop is a great place to start since many of their dishes are inspired or recreated from food found all across Asia.  

Happy Year of the Rat!

I am so happy to be able to share my favorite places to enjoy Vietnamese food on the Gulf Coast.  The suggestions are just a small sampling of food found at these places. Watch some travel food shows and get more ideas on what to try once you have tried these.   This week begins Lunar New Year and has rotated to my birth year! The zodiac sign of the rat is the beginning of the rotation of animals. I was born in the year of the rat and now I am excited to see it return!  I recommend finding a fun place to watch the lion dance to bring good fortune in the new year!  

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới 

Happy New Year in Vietnamese 

Guide to Vietnamese Food on the Mississippi Gulf Coast
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What is your favorite Vietnamese food? 

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission is you click through and make a purchase.