Stop the Holiday Bulge

So you’ve finished gobbling down pounds of turkey with gravy, sugary cranberry sauce, hoards of stuffing, marshmallowy sweet potatoes and ooey gooey pies and cakes.  And probably couldn’t move….but today you barely lifted your ass out of the bed or away from the TV to hit the sales at the stores. Well, this is just the beginning of 6 weeks of holiday fun, or should I say: don’t buy that holiday outfit yet because at this rate you wont fit in it!  And in New Orleans we get another 6 weeks of indulging with Mardi Gras, aka King Cake season. starting right after New Years.

I love the Christmas season…the lights, the trees, the music, the scents, the magical feeling, but last year I stood strong and did not give in to the holiday extra pounds.  It’s not that I didn’t or won’t have some fun in the way of food or drinks, but I’ve learned how to not let it control me.  Aren’t you tired of starting the New Year with another useless resolution to lose weight, get in shape and get healthy?  Well it’s okay to start now and still have some Holiday fun.  So, let’s put the Thanksgiving pig-out party aside and go ahead and buy yourself a new outfit for the holiday parties…and girls make it cute and sexy….this will be your first incentive to not gain any more weight this Christmas season.

No more jumping up and down trying to get your jeans on and laying down hoping they will button up…and no more having to wear sweat pants to Christmas dinner because you filled up on Holiday party goodies since Thanksgiving.  I’ve complied a few ideas to keep you on track and no, it won’t include forced vomiting after inhaling piles of cakes, cookies, breads and pies!

  • If you have a workout schedule now, don’t quit.  If you do 4 days a week, do 4 or at least 3.  If you don’t, then take up walking outdoors.  Winter, especially those of you with snow (or even sand) have a great advantage to keeping that heart rate up and staying fit.  Lift some weights!  Chop down your own tree.  Move all those boxes filled with decorations.  Holiday cleaning. Keep moving.
  • Before the holiday parties, eat at home.  Eat a meal or a good hearty snack.  I know you don’t want to cook, but having a good size portion of protein or even some nuts and healthy carbs like fruit or a big sweet potato will fill you up and keep you focused.  There is no worse decision (and I’ve done it before) than to starve yourself all day so you can eat and drink whatever you want that night at the party.  Not sure what is worse, the hangover from not eating all day or the misery of stuffing your face so much because you were starved when you arrived.
  • Choose not to bake this year.  I always felt obligated to bake numerous mounds of family cookie and pie recipes.  And although they bring great memories and taste oh so good, I would say I ate half of them! I’d give them away as gifts, bring them to work…bake and bake and bake and really would eat and eat and eat.  As you’ve read before I am addicted to sugar and most people are…so why put the crack in front of the crack addict?  I WAS a Christmas treat junkie and have put that aside.  Last year I only made meat pies and gave those away.  This year…I am making nothing.  Saving myself and my bank account.
  • If you do want to or need to bake for a party, then choose wisely.  Choose a cookie or treat that won’t make you weighted down, bloated and miserable for giving in.   I can’t go into enough why sugar and gluten (grains) are bad for your health and waistline, but instead of putting all that here, just believe me that using some recipes from many Paleo websites, blogs and cookbooks are definitely the way to go and you will be able to leave the guilt behind. (of course provided you don’t eat the whole pan of those too).  Choose coconut or almond flours instead of gluten filled flours.  Don’t use sugar, but if you must use extra dark chocolate without soy products added or a little local real honey. Nuts and dried fruit make a cookie or dessert hearty and sweet.  Don’t use vegetable shortenings, but instead use lard, grass-fed butter or coconut oil.  Keeping it full of good fats and nutrient filled ingredients instead of glutenous globs of gunk will make your new Christmas desserts a hit!
  • Go ahead and drink some adult beverages (if you are of age, of course).  Since I’ve discovered hard apple cider (or Pear) drafts, I’m hooked.  If that doesn’t suit you for a beer substitute, then just try to steer clear of gluten filled regular or light beer.  And try to steer clear of sugary liquors.  Opt for wine (red preferably) or clear liquor like vodka or tequila.  Egg nog is probably not a good choice because of the sugar and dairy, but if you do have some, and who can have much anyway, stick to the full fat egg nog made of egg and real cream…it’ll be so rich you will only have one.
  • When you hit the buffet, make good choices (as a friend of mine always says).  Go fill up your plate with the meat, seafood (not fried), veggies and fruit.  That will be the most satisfying and you probably won’t want much more. And stay away from the pastas, fried food, sauces, dips, crackers and breads. IF you still crave a “treat”, then go for it after you have filled up on the meat, fruit and veggies.  Just try to hit the non-bread or cake/non-gluten varieties…a piece of fudge is better than a piece of cake or cheesecake and don’t eat the crust or have homemade ice-cream.  Control yourself Sweet Cheeks…one treat is fine…

So, now you’re ready for the Holiday Season right? Let’s have some fun and start it off right with some good decisions we won’t feel guilty about and with a little Christmas cheer from New Orleans (the last time it snowed here in 2008)…


Darkness, Sweat and Fears

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting,
dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.
~ Edgar Allan Poe

My only light during the hurricane.

The past week has been long. Too long for a supposed minor hurricane. With all the preparing we do it still turns our lives upside down.

4 full days without power in the Louisiana heat. To me this is living primal…I got to live like a cavewoman for 4 days. Even though I had a few modern necessities like texting (although I had to charge the phone in the car) and a flushing toilet, I took my Paleo lifestyle to a new level.

I prepared my Paleo survival food and cooked like mad before the storm came…it was coming a half day earlier than expected. Burgers, beef jerky, cut up vegetables, bacon, Paleo pancakes  sweet potatoes, pork roast and lots of water. Got the food cold knowing power would go off. I guess our hunter gatherer ancestors would have prepared what they could or consumed what food they could knowing they would be without for a few days.

Survival mode sets in. The hurricane came by overnight. Howling winds shaking the house. Up all night I tried to see the rain and watch the streets. Watching for flood…calling our tugboats on the Mississippi River to see how much it’s rising. It’s a little unnerving. Katrina didn’t hit us direct so what would Isaac do? He stalled and moved North. Thankfully.  On Tuesday evening, when the wind barely started, the power went out. Flashlight broke so I lit a few candles. Total darkness and I mean the scary boogeyman type of darkness. Alone with the dogs and cats in the dark.  One time at night I sat in the car charging the phone and getting some air with the dogs and a knock at the window by a neighbor, drunk and scaring the shit out of me.  I felt very alone.  Note for next time: Get a gun.

Rain and wind continued until the next day then it stopped. Then no breeze and the sun came out. Then the heat set in. Topping 100 degrees and extreme humidity. It was too hot to even go upstairs in the house.  I can barley function. I tried to exercise in the house but too hot. Walking the dogs was all I could do other than picking up debris and tree branches outside.  This is just what you do.  Ice was melting quick; so I stand in long lines to get ice. Throw out food going back and eat what I could. I still had to work…Grace had power, she took us in to her nice cool home to work for a few hours, then Ken did the same. I worried about the dogs and cats in the heat, and I would rush back to my hot home.  It’s still home so I don’t want to be away long.

And sleep, boy did I sleep. I slept as soon as the sun went down. Too dark and hot to stay awake. It was a little scary. I wait for a comforting voice to call. And after I would sleep more.

By Saturday with the sun and heat, although unbearable, it almost seemed normal and hoping this new “normal” would end.  Sweat is just pouring down me; standing under a cool shower feels wonderful.

And just as the sun is setting and the Michigan football game begins, the power comes on!  Glorious air conditioning…close the windows and make it cold!  Sprawl out on the couch and celebrate.  Just in time.

Out of cavewoman mode to recovery mode.  Work, clean, work.  The stress experienced after almost makes you want a little of that primal life…just without the scary parts.

Hurricane Isaac…Prepare…Ride Out the Storm.

Tweet via DJ Soul Sister of WWOZ in New Orleans @djsoulsister

I see there is a hurricane water in effect for NOLA.  Not this again. 

The only Isaac I wanna hear from has the last name of Hayes.

As the direction of Hurricane Isaac creeps closer to us there is that instant unsettled feeling of turning your life upside down for a few days or as in Hurricane Katrina for weeks to months and for some people for years.  And Isaac is to come on that very same day, the 7th anniversary of Katrina.  The reminder is hitting us in the face.  When a hurricane is in the gulf all bets are off for anyone along the coast.  Almost half the coast is affected in some way.  And we are now under a hurricane warning.

Anxiety…knots in the stomach.  The storm has made its turn and making its decision of where exactly to go.  Make a list.  Crap no one has water left…glad I have that Brita pitcher.  Clear the gutter.  Fill anything with water.  Make ice because no one has ice…good thing I don’t eat bread because they are out already.  Geez no one is prepared?  Make food, enforce the plan.  Gas tomorrow…there are long lines now so maybe 0600 before work will be better.  Need an oil change…scratch.  Got plenty of dog and cat food.  I think…how long were we without during Katrina.  Crap, no alcohol…must save what little money I do have.  Charge phones, iPad, laptop, camera…charge everything.  Where is that boom box I never used…batteries, need batteries, what kind?  Do I even own a flashlight?  Throw out anything in freezer not needed.  Remember that horrible stink of fridges after Katrina.  Move the flying objects from outside tomorrow or tie it down…could be a category 1, 2 or 3 we don’t know.  Geez when is that next update.  Can it make a turn elsewhere please!  Relax…it will all be okay.  Accept the process and know you are safe.  Safe.

I am not evacuating this time at least not yet.  With 2 dogs and 3 cats it’s very difficult to evacuate.  But I am a survivor…I will be prepared.  I live 2 blocks from the levee which is the highest point in New Orleans and I have an upstairs in a 100-year-old home. Also I work in the marine industry.  Surely among 60 boats I can find safe harbor if needed.  Also, I have friends riding it out also in New Orleans and my old boss Louie at Matassa’s…he won’t leave.  And my dear friend, Erin, she will make sure I am safe…her door is always open on the Northshore.

I feel pretty secure.  Anxious, but secure.

I will be cooking today…cooking Paleo/primal seems fitting for this.  Burgers, beef jerky, banana pancakes, pork roast.  I will have plenty of water, ice, pet food…the essentials.   I worked out today, feeling good and feeling strong.  Instinct takes over.

Be safe Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

Crescent City Connections

“Cords are made of astral and etheric energy and connect two people’s subtle bodies. They stretch between two people very much like an umbilical cord and transfer emotional energy and chi between the two. It does not matter how far away the other person is, as the cord is not a physical substance and distance is irrelevant, so it is still effective from the other side of the planet.” ~Alchemy Realm

There are connections between two people, who have shared a special bond that they, themselves, cannot describe.  Complete and natural energy within draws them together.  An instant and very strong bond of friendship and/or love.  It is a spiritual, almost psychic connection with this person, that so often words are not even needed because the connection is so strong.  It can happen miles away.  We look at this person or think of them and smile and feel happy.

It instantly forms a telepathic-like bond that when there is the touch of a hand or hug, it can feel like coming home.

I believe it is possible with everyone, but rare if the feelings are fought or the chance is not taken.  This connection forms a relationship that helps you grow and learn together and within oneself.  You get that feeling of connection when you find your best friend.  It can be a connection between two strangers.  It can be the family members or friends you are drawn to the most…who you can’t wait to see and spend time with and laugh with.  It is the connection you feel with a place you visit or live that draws you to the heart of it.  It can mean a soulmate or true love; the person with whom you feel true happiness and joy and which brings a feeling of having waited for this person your whole life…primal attraction.

Your heart and soul is called to them at the moment your eyes meet.  You just know.

UBUNTU ~ Matt Lemmler CD Release

” …the collective is always stronger than the individual. That’s what music is all about-many people working together,

sharing a common creative goal. It’s deep and it’s ancient.”

 Quincy Jones

Matt Lemmler

He sits at the piano composing and creating.  He’s working.  Matt Lemmler is a quiet talent; he doesn’t like to bother his neighbors with his music.  But they love it.  Who wouldn’t love to live next to the beautiful sounds of a New Orleans jazz pianist. 

Born in a family home of musicians in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, where jazz fills the streets, he was destined to be in this musical space and time.  And now he has his newest CD, UBUNTU, releasing this upcoming weekend.  It is a collection of music that follows his passion, which is evident in his explanations of his song choices for this CD…UBUNTU is a spiritual, soulful and meaningful journey.  Matt tells us Ubuntu, “was a concept first that I had come to find and try to live by, through scriptures, sermons and the truth that is inside all of us.  I read a book by Quincy Jones, my musical mentor since I was a boy, and he shared the views of Ubuntu and that he had received the info, concept and philosophy from Nelson Mandela and Reverend Tutu.  All the Ubuntu quotes, to me, basically, say the same thing: love thy neighbor and help others first, share passions and build relationships based on equality, love and peace.”

For those in New Orleans this weekend, please come out to Matt Lemmler’s New Orleans Jazz Revival Band’s CD release concert of UBUNTU on Friday August 24th at Cafe Istanbul 8pm & 10pm, 2372 St. Claude Ave. and Sunday August 26th at Snug Harbor, 626 Frenchmen 8pm & 10pm.  I will definitely be there!

Now, please join me as Matt Lemmler explains the meanings of his chosen songs for Ubuntu.  It’s like looking into the soul of this jazz musician:

Wade in the Water
A very primitive and chanting take on a classic spiritual. I was very much inspired by the music of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” in orchestrating this and the music of Charles Mingus, Ellington, but also, the history and past of New Orleans’ Congo Square and the African influences in our music and culture and special inspiration from Harold Batiste and Dr John. Makes that spiritual music dig right down deep into our bones. Makes our spirit come alive and just express ourselves the way we are. Just the way we are to praise our existence. Our maker and our bodies. Mind, body and spirit all expressing itself through music and art.
The use of the choir chanting ‘the water’ throughout brings comfort and solace to my soul. The use of the ‘animal sounds’ as a choir and as another type of chant was influenced by the Gulf Oil Spill disaster that brought my attention to all the living beings in and out of the water, everything from microscopic creatures to dolphins, sharks, whales, and humans, all part of everything that makes this garden we live and wade in. It seems to me that their voice and spirit is sometimes ignored by our greed and selfishness. We are all part of this world, even the one’s that don’t have a way to stand up and communicate. This was the first hymn arrangement performed at my Baptism celebration at Williams Trace Church and Wading in that water changed my heart and soul. It grew 1000 times larger and was strengthened by God’s Holy Spirit. So blessed to have found my way back to the Light. The water is great!! I owe one of my 1970’s fears of the water to ‘jaws’ and to my all-time favorite composer John Williams, but also to the movie magic of a live orchestra and composed by one of the world’s greatest living composers, John Williams.

Sheep May Safely Graze
~ J.S.Bach
Inspired by Bach’s passion of music, but also of having the chance to work with my dear brother in music, Kirk Whalum. I was blessed to be able to help produce and perform atTrinity Church’s Jazz Festival and Jazz Mass and also invite Kirk as a special guest artist. His loving spirit and friendship inspired both Sheep May Safely Graze, but also most of Music of Ubuntu including Be Thou Amy Vision, Movin on Up,  These hymns, spirituals and pop songs were arranged for Trinity’s Weekly jazz services, but also put into a Mass format and premiered in 2010 as a Tribute to the Music of New Orleans. It was my last performance as music director for Trinity, before I moved back to my hometown, New Orleans.

Ode to Joy
I was blessed to have been asked by my dear friend, Jennifer Davis, to orchestrate and perform this piece and others for her funeral. I had travelled and toured with Jenn and her family in the early 90’s with Phantom of the Opera and remained in touch for many years after that tour. During our evacuation from Katrina, Jenn and Paul Edwards helped my family with housing, love and fellowship for many months after Katrina’s aftermath.
Having to witness Jenn’s illness was an extremely painful and beautiful experience to go through, but afterwards, her death and her belief in God’s love, music and her love of her family inspired my heart to understand and feel God’s presence by seeing someone so filled with peace and nobility in their illness and death. Being asked to program and write the music for her funeral brought me to understand my passion of music as a blessing. It led me to create Ubuntu and follow this path towards music as a way to heal, both my soul/spirit and to allow music to heal others in need of spiritual uplifting. This passage in life and witnessing Jennifer’s strength in her Faith and in her illness, was a gift and lesson in my life journey. Her funeral was a celebration of life as her partner, Paul Edwards, expressed in his testimony of love.It was my first experience to sing and worship, while grieving a loss of a loved one, and still having my family by my side, even after divorce. God’s love is amazing to witness.

Be Thou My Vision
Originally inspired by and performed with Kirk Whalum at Trinity’s Jazz Festival. A hymn that always brings comfort to me. It’s so ancient and seems like it’s been part of our existence for many years. This track was one of the pieces that just came together in the studio on just the first take. I remember all of us going back into the control room after tracking and there we were all listening. Afterwards, there was an amazing energy of love and fellowship. It was just perfect and comforting to record, but also to say to ourselves, this came from a more powerful energy than ourselves.

Love Foundation
A beautiful piece composed by my dear friend, Michael Hurdle.  Michael asked me to arrange his piece to feature a men’s gospel quartet. Immediately after starting work on Michael’s Love Foundation, I fell in love with its message and it started to bring me comfort and understanding in salvation and it’s blessing of love. This piece along with all the hymns and spirituals on Ubuntu, brought me comfort and peace within my healing heart. To understand God’s light and love and be blessed to experience that within my passion of music was a gift.
I’ll never forget coming home one night and seeing Michael’s gift of leaving me a bible on my doorstep. His love and friendship started my journey to where I am today. I was so touched by this generosity and thoughtfulness.

Colour My World
~Originally arranged  for Offertory at Trinity Jazz Mass
This was inspired by the feeling of gratitude for God blessing men with loving women in this world, and vice versa. To finally truly understand that love that bonds men and women and becomes one. It is a beautiful way and I’m so blessed to have had these loving angels and bonds around me.
Inspired by the music of Chicago, Paul Simon, Herbie Hancock and my first jazz influence, Chuck Mangione.  These artists/bands influenced my arranging passion. I used to listen to Mangione’s music when I was a teenager and was always inspired by his orchestrations and his beautiful flugelhorn horn playing. ‘feels so good’ was a number one hit in the 70’s, and was probably the last time an instrumental/jazz/rock piece ever earned a number one slot on the pop charts. The 70’s was a great time for live horn bands, rock tinged, but heavily jazz influenced. Those were the good old days for me in hearing all these wonderful horn/jazz bands be on radio and in concert halls. Those were the days that arrangers/orchestrators still were still in strong demand.

For the Bread
Originally arranged for Communion at Trinity Jazz Mass. One of my favorite pieces on Ubuntu for its improv and dialogue between the horns and the rhythm section and its beautiful message of Gratitude. A smaller instrumentation but so full of depth and a special communion between the musicians.

Movin On Up
Another song inspired by Kirk Whalum’s visit to Houston, but also from the 70’s TV show, “The Jeffersons”,  jazz pianist Roger Kelloway’s, “All in the Family” and always the spirit of one of my musical/life heroes,  Quincy Jones.

Savior, Like a Shepherd
Originally performed with Kirk Whalum at Trinity Jazz Fest, but also dedicated to my dear friend, Randy Bigbee. Another painful and beautiful lesson was to witness Randy’s loss of his son and to experience and watching how his family’s Faith in God softened their pain/loss and how music can be a healing gift. I still feel pain when I think of this life’s tragedy, but I feel Love and blessings to have Randy as my friend and brother. Thank you, Randy, for showing me the way and also leading me to my first revival!!

Tumbalalaika/Sunrise, Sunset
While I was in the process of arranging the music for Trinity’s jazz mass/Fest, I was also making the transition to move back to New Orleans after living and working in Houston,TX for 5 years. One day, while I was composing upstairs in my studio in New Orleans, my neighbors downstairs, Ellie and Richard, were having some health issues. I remember not knowing what to say or how to make them feel better. I realized that music is what I could offer in hopes of bringing them comfort. Ellie suggested I play/ sing Tumbalalaika. I found the music and fell in love with its tone and vibe. Tumbalalaika made a great verse to Fiddler on the Roof’s, Sunrise/Sunset. It was awakening to me to offer music whenever I couldn’t help in any other way. To give my passion fully to help others and have Faith that music does heal.

The broadway musical, “Annie” was the first NYC musical I witnessed as a teenager. I remember the experience of performing trumpet with Holy Cross marching band and being invited to NYC to march in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. What an amazing experience to goto NYC for the first time, march in the parade, but also tour the city. We all went to see this musical and I remember being enchanted by the live musicians performing in that orchestra. Hearing those world-class musicians and being in NYC as a child, will always be an inspiration. Having live musicians perform with orchestras is a spiritual experience and I pray that our children get to witness these performances more than ever, as more live music is being cut due to ‘financial’ cuts. Music and the arts should always be made a priority!

Another great hymn that was performed For Trinity Church’s Jazz Mass. I was inspired by Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Henry Mancini and Neal Hefti’s “Odd Couple”. The 70’s was a great time to experience all these great tv shows and movies using great jazz inspired scores with outstanding arrangers and studio musicians.One of my mission statements is to keep the art of arranging for live bands alive. A tradition that seems to be a dying art in today’s world of computer and synthesized instruments, yet such a powerful art to bring horns and strings together. To combine various live instruments in order to create a specific sound. To write for specific musicians to creat a specific sound. This is one of the hopes I’d like to share with the music of Ubuntu. A collection of spiritual pieces performed and recorded in a live studio setting. No overdubs, no studio tricks. Just talented, live studio musicians creating music with original arrangements custom-made for the recording. I hope you enjoy this music and support it by having the New Orleans Jazz Revival Band come perform for you.
Matt Lemmler

Red Dress Run…Summer Fun in New Orleans

It’s hot here and it’s been raining for what seems to be several weeks.  This does not stop New Orleans from having fun.  Thankfully the rain ended early today for one of the most fun times here…the Red Dress Run.  One week after the Satchmo Fest and tonight we have Dirty Linen Night on Royal Street.  And Red will mix with the dirty whites of the gallery seekers tonight.

I worked today, but this does not stop me or anyone else witnessing the effects of Red Dress Run.  I watch my neighbors stumbling in their houses all adorned in their red dresses.  Even my neighbors, who I always think of as very straight-laced came house a little wobbly, slurring words shouting of a great time and that I need to come next year!  As the sun sets they are still lingering in the neighborhoods.

The “race” is downtown starting and ending in the French Quarter…not sure how many of the 8000 or so ever make it to the end with the bar hopping in between!  When I lived in the Quarter, if I didn’t participate, it sure was fun to walk around and take in the red dress sightings.  Nothing like a straight hairy beer-bellied guy in a too tight red dress he borrowed from his wife!  Very funny!

For 18 years this run has been going on and proceeds go to various charities and non-profits and it’s just plain ole a hell of a lot of fun.  So if you’re not from here check it out and put in on your calendar and don’t be afraid of a little Louisiana heat.  Check out Red Dress Run on Facebook or the Hash House Harriers who are the self-proclaimed group the “drinking club with a running problem”.  So mark your calendars…I don’t want to miss this again next year!

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Note: some of the pics are from local photographer and cookbook author Roy Guste who has some amazing photos of New Orleans!  You can also find him on Facebook.