Costume inspiration: Bank-robbing bandits and their lady loot

Anne Culer Mardi Gras in New Orleans

It's been a whirlwind, but Mardi Gras 2018 is in the books.  It's always a special time of year in New Orleans, but was especially poignant this year, being our last Mardi Gras as locals.

Mardi Gras day came early this year, which meant less time for crafting.  So, we wanted to come up with an easy theme.  My "neighbor/costume spirit animal" Whitney had the idea to do bank robbers, which I loved.

The guys wore simple black and white striped shirts with beanies, black pants and zorro-style eye masks.  Some of them carried money bags we bought on Amazon and others held up signs I made with canvases, Sharpies and wooden craft sticks.

To add a little twist, we decided the gals would be the loot!  We put a bit more effort into our get-ups, but the costumes were really just a bunch of green and gold, cobbled together with fake money from a party supply store.

The theme was perfect for a large group and we got compliments everywhere we went.  At one point, a walking parade came barreling down Royal Street behind me, trumpets blaring.  Joe captured the most perfect photo of the madness.

It's a day and a memory that I'll treasure forever!

We weren't the only ones with elaborate get-ups.  Here's a look at some of the other fabulous costumes we found!

Saying goodbye to the city, people and station that I love

Anne Cutler WGNO

It's with a very heavy heart that I announce my days here at WGNO are numbered.

As you may know, my husband is a JAG attorney with the US Marine Corps and we've been blessed with 7 wonderful years stationed in New Orleans.

This is where our beautiful boys, Brooks and Beau, were born. This is where we purchased our first home, a 140 year old fixer-upper that we've renovated, top to bottom. The community has embraced us every step of the way.

Our neighbors, friends and co-workers have become family to us. I will forever call this incredible, cultural, dynamic, artistic, diverse and beautifully-flawed city home.

Sadly, Joe recently received orders to spend the next 6 years in Washington DC, beginning in June.

We have a few more months to soak up every ounce of culture here and I intend on making the most of it.

You can expect to see me along the parade routes, in the crowds at Jazz Fest and of course, eating as many meals as I can at Commander's Palace!

There's a bittersweet adventure lying ahead, but until it begins, I'll continue to see you bright and early every weekday on Good Morning New Orleans.

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Mardi Gras Beyond Bourbon Street

Anne Cutler Mardi Gras Beyond Bourbon Street

First off, it's really not Mardi Gras, it's carnival.  Mardi Gras is Fat Tuesday, while carnival is the entire season of parades and parties leading up to the big day.  The more you know...

Semantics aside, if you've ever been as a tourist, it's likely you celebrated in the French Quarter, stumbling down Bourbon Street, with its strips clubs and two-for-one beers.  If you've ever have the chance to celebrate with a local, you stay as far away from Bourbon Street as possible.

Anne Cutler Mardi Gras Beyond Bourbon Street

Carnival season is about family, friends, food and tradition.  Yes, we drink and party, but we do it with our children, neighbors, heck.... even our priests.

My favorite day of the season is the first big Saturday of parades.  The crowds are still small and we set up in the neutral ground of St. Charles, right on top of the streetcar tracks.

Anne Cutler Mardi Gras Beyond Bourbon Street

We bring out tents, tables, ladders, burners, blankets, speakers, chairs and coolers.  The guys play cornhole and the stump game, while the women chat, laugh and try to wrangle more kids than we can count.

We plan our jambalaya and argue about which king cake and fried chicken to bring for weeks in advance.  We have gourmet bloody mary's, homemade margaritas and blood orange mimosas.  We do it up right.

Mardi Gras Beyond Bourbon Street

If you ever have the chance to visit New Orleans, I invite you to leave the French Quarter.  Come down to St. Charles and celebrate with us locals.

If you ask nicely, we may even share a plate of jambalaya with you!

Mardi Gras Beyond Bourbon Street
Mardi Gras Beyond Bourbon Street
Anne Cutler Mardi Gras Beyond Bourbon Street

Getting our hands dirty with a back-to-basics birthday on the farm

Anne Cutler children's farm birthday party

Pinterest has to be one of the best and worst things to ever happen to parents.  The website has a million creative ideas for birthday parties, but the pressure to make them perfect is stronger than ever.  It feels like the world's going to end if your photo booth doesn't have the right props, your straws don't match your napkins, or God forbid, your food doesn't have darling, witty labels!  OH THE HORROR!

This year, we returned from a jam-packed Christmas in California and I just didn't have the time, money or energy to do weeks of crafting and decorations.  Instead, I kept it simple.  I found the most wonderful non-profit farm just outside of town.  It's called "Sugar Roots" and hosts field trips and birthday parties, teaching children about farm-to-table eating.  It's a real, working farm... outhouse and all!

Children's farm birthday party

Our decorations were as basic as it gets... galvanized buckets from the storage shed, wooden boxes I scrounged up around the house, tablecloths borrowed from my neighbor and hats that doubled as party favors (an early gift from Grandma Cece.)

I did make two things from Pinterest: kettle corn "corn cobs" and a picket fence cake.  I'm not gonna lie, the corn cobs were a pain in my ass.  Thanks to pre-made kettle corn, along with some help from my husband and Beau, we were able to knock them out.  The cake, on the other hand, was surprisingly easy.  I stacked four layers of funfetti with store-bought chocolate icing, then stuck Kit Kats and crumbled Oreos on the sides.

Children's farm birthday party

The highlight of the day, without a doubt, was seeing the pure joy on the kids' faces.  From the rope swing to the chickens, they reveled in the freedom to simply run around and get dirty.  Beau even got to ride the Sugar Roots miniature horse, yelling "Yee Hawwwww" the entire time.  I'll treasure the memories, made even sweeter by the fact that we didn't stress out and focused on what's important.

Happy 4th birthday, Beau. I love you more than you know!

Children's farm birthday party

Mother turns heartbreaking loss into personal mission to help others

They say not all superheroes wear capes.  That couldn't be more true for Georgia Boswell.

I had the honor to meet this local superwoman, who gives area children the opportunity for a brighter future, through music, as she carries on an important legacy of her own.

You see, Boswell's musical mission is the result of heartbreaking tragedy.

On March 12th, 2014, Boswell's son Drew, died.  He was a victim of 'sudden unexplained death in childhood' or SUDC.  Drew was just 15 months old.

"Your children make you braver, your children make you better, your children make you stronger.  Although I couldn't ever do anything normal parents do for Drew, I wanted to do something and that something was spreading his love to other kids," explains Boswell.

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On the very day he died, Boswell made an unexpected decision.

"Even though he was here for such a short time, he was nothing but love and I don't need to turn to hate even though this terrible thing happened to me."

In her darkest moment, Boswell channeled her sorrow into a mission. The organization she dreamt up is now a non-profit called Drew's Tunes.

Since that fateful day, it has raised $162,000 to fund SUDC research and provide instruments for music programs at schools across New Orleans, like the 'Marching Beavers' at McMillian's First Steps.

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"More than any dollar amount or number of instruments, just to see kids smile, that may not have." She says, "Drew always wanted everybody to be happy and I know that he is very proud of us."

Drew Boswell would have turned 5 years old last month.  While he's gone from this earth, his short life is living on, through the beautiful gift of music.

If you'd like to contribute to his cause, click here to donate to Drew's Tunes.