Monday, September 17, 2012

in the aftermath of isaac

It's been almost a month, and for us, things are back to normal. But every Sunday when we go out to help those who have contacted the Mormon Helping Hands for help, I'm reminded that for so many people, getting back to normal is not going to be easy.

For the past three weeks, our ward has only had sacrament meeting so that those who are able can go back out to LaPlace to help. The first Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, we spent at the Rich's. (They're doing well, by the way. You can check out Jaime's blog here.)

We spent September 9th at Dawn and Aaron's home in Cambridge, one of the areas in St. John Parish that had the worst flooding. Dawn and Aaron had decided to wait out the storm in their home, but when they saw the water coming up their street they knew they had to get out. The water rose so fast that by the time they had gathered up the necessities, they could no longer drive out. They waded through the water with their three small kids, one on each of their backs, and holding their oldest's hands. They had up to two feet of water in their home at the peak, and had just recently gotten back into their neighborhood. Twelve days after the storm, and they were just beginning to take out the drywall and insulation. Not only did it smell, but black mold was growing up and down their walls. The insulation was still dripping wet with flood and sewer water. And the majority of their possessions were sitting out on the side of the road. Because all of their neighbors are in the same situation, Dawn and Aaron had very little help. The four of us were there for about six hours removing the drywall, insulation, and cabinets. Dawn said to me, "You don't know how big of a help this was. Aaron and I would have had to do it all by ourselves. Before you came, I didn't know how we would do it. Now it's manageable." Aaron made the same comment, with tears in his eyes.
Me, Adam, Aaron, Dawn, Michael, and Andy
So many have the same problem that Aaron and Dawn do. As of yesterday afternoon, the Mormon Helping Hands had finished gutting over 630 homes.

The streets still look like this:
Aaron & Dawn's home

It's sobering. But we are so blessed to be able to help. I woke up yesterday morning dreading going out to pull out more moldy insulation. But it's worth it. We can't fix their problems. But we can make it manageable.

Friday, September 14, 2012

"you've outdone yourself once again"

Living with Michael, I hear the above phrase pretty close to daily. He's very likely the most complimentary person I've ever come in contact with. (If he's ever said it to you, never fear. He says with the utmost sincerity.)

This time I really feel good, though. Anyone who knows me knows I'm not much of a cook. However, when cooking's this easy and this yummy, I can get by. Here's what we had for dinner last night that earned me my most recent "you've outdone yourself:"

Broiled Tilapia Parmesan (via Allrecipes)

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon celery salt
2 pounds tilapia fillets

  1. Preheat your oven's broiler. Grease a broiling pan or line pan with aluminum foil.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the Parmesan cheese, butter, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Season with dried basil, pepper, onion powder and celery salt. Mix well and set aside.
  3. Arrange fillets in a single layer on the prepared pan. Broil a few inches from the heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the fillets over and broil for a couple more minutes. Remove the fillets from the oven and cover them with the Parmesan cheese mixture on the top side. Broil for 2 more minutes or until the topping is browned and fish flakes easily with a fork. Be careful not to over cook the fish.
I told you, it's fool proof. I've been known to ruin the easiest recipe, so if I can make it, anyone can!

The potatoes were also a yummy treat with cheese and butter. You can find the recipe here (I added garlic as one of the reviews suggested, and I would highly recommend it).

Plus, it's always fun to cook when I've got these adorable plates to put the finished product on! Thanks, Mom & Dad!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

michael's hair

I know, I know. You're all dying to know. During the hurricane, did Michael grow a beard, just because? He did, my friends. He did.

He also did a MySpace-style photo shoot for your and my viewing pleasure.

He doesn't want me to tell you, but I just have to because I got the biggest kick out of it and I need to remember just for remembrance's sake. His facial hair really isn't this dark. I'm not going to tell you how he enhanced it, but it is enhanced.

Also, he's got a distinct white patch coming in behind both of his ears. I quite like it.

So there you go. Quite the load of information about things you never cared to know.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

new orleans museum of art

On Friday nights the NOMA is open late, and you can be entertained by a classical guitarist, some pretty fantastic art, and Chef Leah Chase (she's a 90-year-old NOLA cooking star).

For some reason we were under the impression that we would be receiving a full on dinner for freeeee! But, as you see in Michael's hand, our meal ended up being more of a taste testing of courtbouillon. Good, but not filling.

All of us agree that the NOMA is worth visiting, and you need a good long while (at least four hours, but we could've spent a lot more) if you want to see everything. One of the twenty original casts of The Age of Bronze by Rodin greets you at the top of the staircase (I was pretty excited--I definitely didn't know enough about art when I visited the Met in NY--art is much cooler when you know the history behind it). The top two floors have African, Asian, and Early American art. We almost missed them because we started on the bottom floor and worked up, but I would highly suggest starting up at the top and working down.

Once more I was confused by the modern art. Take a look at the bottom-left piece. The caption reads as follows:
Serenaded seashells, hm?

On a side note, I don't know how we still don't have any pictures of us with the Rich's. Also, the two pictures we took of Michael and I together have apparently been corrupted. I don't know what the deal is.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

hurricane isaac

1. The first LaPlace exit if you're heading north on I-10 from New Orleans. No, it's not supposed to be underwater.

2. Lots of fallen fences. Even concrete ones.

3. Power is still out for some people. That's over a week, people. You don't know how much you need it until it's gone for extended periods. Especially in the 94* with 90% humidity weather down here. Also, I just thought this sign was so redneck and awesome.

4. Jaime and Jason's street in LaPlace. This is Saturday, four days after the hurricane passed through. Their across-the-street neighbor had two feet of water.

5. Our apartment complex. The tree's hiding it, but that whole side of the building is covered by a tarp. This isn't our building. The worst we got is a water stain in one of the corners. Our friend Andy, though, wasn't so lucky. Half of his ceiling fell in and the outside walls are covered in black mildew spots. And he was on the second of three floors.

6. Every street is lined with ripped up carpet and ruined furniture and lots and lots of junk. This family (another neighbor of Jaime and Jason's) told us that the plywood board had been in the garage through all five of those enormous storms, and nothing had happened. Isaac ended their success story. 

7. When we walked into Jaime and Jason's house on Saturday morning, we couldn't really tell there was anything wrong, aside from a strong mildew scent. As soon as we stepped on the carpets and rugs, however, we knew they were in trouble. I left our hurricane preparedness plastic bag on the floor of their kitchen, and inside was our last working flashlight, filled with nasty water. Someone told us it was Category 3 water-- lake water, rain water, and sewage. Gross. 

8. Trees much larger than this fell everywhere, their most notorious location on top of houses. Enormous amounts of rain soaked the earth and then winds pulled trees six feet around straight out of the ground (okay, slanted). 

Everyone in Louisiana refers to before-Katrina and after-Katrina when speaking about time. Before Isaac I thought everyone was just making a huge deal out of a big deal. Obviously I still don't really understand, but this gave me a little better of an idea. After a storm like this, even just a Category 1 hurricane, things get chaotic. On Monday, we bought a $5.00 gallon of milk at Walmart, and there was no meat or eggs. When we drove into Kenner for the first time after the storm, nobody had power. That is an eerie feeling.
It just doesn't feel like real life.

our hurrica-tion

It's been a while. My parents keep saying that I need to update the blog because my grandmas keep calling them to see if we're alive. By now the word's pretty much all the way out... but Grandma Sharon and Grandma Gayle, we're safe! :)

Warnings started rolling in the night of Sunday, August 26th that Tropical Storm Isaac was making it's way toward New Orleans, and the chance of the winds increasing to a hurricane status was high. Michael's boss texted him and told him the plant was shutting down and if we were going to leave, leave early to beat the traffic. I freaked out a little. But it was exciting. So I was running around in a half-panic, half-thrilled mode trying to round up all our hurricane-preparedness items, which consisted of a pack of jerky, three boxes of granola bars, and a 24-pack of water. After a game of Clue with the Hall's, the Rich's, and Andy, it was decided that we would spend the night at the Rich's, and they would generously allow us to accompany them to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where Jaime's parents live. Our little car would hold the fort down in LaPlace.

To beat traffic, we woke up at 6 and were on our way. At about 7 I realized I hadn't told my boss yet that I wasn't coming in to work for a couple of days. I texted him. Probably not the best idea, but our first crisis was averted.

I wish I had more to tell you about our hurrica-tion. We were at the Hardwick home for six days and we did little more than eat, sleep, watch the news, read books, and play card games. But seriously. I was going to do a day-by-day breakdown, but there wasn't much going on.

Hurricane Isaac finally hit land on Tuesday night. It moved so slowly, and pushed all the water from Lake Pontchartrain to areas that had never been flooded before. The hurrica-tion turned a little panic-y when we heard about people being rescued by boat from Jaime and Jason's subdivision. But there was nothing to do but wait and watch. 

On Friday, Jaime and I finally went stir crazy and went to Walmart, where we bought one gallon of milk and three Sinful Colors nail polishes. When we got back, the boys were finally stir crazy, too, so we went to Raising Cane's for lunch and then headed to Hudson's. Jaime and I tried on bikinis. And with the total cost for a way cute Roxy one being only $1.29... don't be ashamed, Mom, but I bought it. You were right, I feel too guilty to even wear it. But we both got cute dresses for under ten bucks! I just kept thinking that Heather G would love this place.
Saturday dawned, and the water had gone down enough in Jaime and Jason's subdivision that we could get to it by truck. We arrived in LaPlace around 2PM, I think, and the water had gone down significantly. The damage deserves a whole post of it's own. It'll come next. The rest of the day was spent taking lots of pictures, moving everything out the rooms, and ripping up carpet.

By the end of it all, we had been with Jaime and Jason and Keaton for at least three hours every day for the past eleven days. And we weren't even sick of them :) This means we're real life friends, and officially Aunt Aly and Uncle Michael.

Michael's self-imposed uncle-ness has finally rubbed off on someone for good!