It’s that time of the year when tourists descend upon New Orleans like a bunch of drunk and shirtless locusts. Middle aged conventioneers with names like Stew and Skip take up with sorority girls, frat boys, and Lousianans alike in America’s spring break: Mardi Gras. Yes, it’s that time of year, but it isn’t all bad for the good people of NOLA — they get free jewelry.
And by jewelry, I mean beads.
Lots of beads.
Hippy Ti Yo beads!
Mardi Gras is the only holiday I know in which people throw shiny things off of floats and hang said shiny things on trees and doors and fences and anyone who will flash a tata or two. If anyone else knows of another free jewelry holiday, YOU LET ME KNOW, OKAY?
It’s been a few years since I have been to New Orleans for the season, but last time I prepared as best I could by grabbing beads enough for ten people plus half of Jackson Square. Plus, I get abuncha green ones around here every St. Patrick’s day, plus the occasional bag full of beads in the thrift store now-and-again…plus…well, put it altogether, and I am always stocked with a drawer full of Mardi Gras beads. No, literally, there is a drawer labeled MARDI GRAS BEADS. It comes in handy more often than you would think.
This year, considering Fat Tuesday is February 12, I thought it would be fun to mash it with its neighboring holiday—Valentines, on February 14. The end result is a glitzy chocolate box with Cajun flair that I can use to harness my sparkle tooth. Of course you could use it to give away cookies or homemade treaties…I have my sparkles to think of.
Like the creole dish they were named for, these boxes are an eclectic jumble of decadent elements. Jambalaya is also a popular song and a line dance (click here to learn en français!). The idea came to me after thinking of other songs to use describe this project. For a while I’d call them I Left My Heart in Louisiana Boxes but decided that would be too tacky. Not nearly as tacky as Cajun Stripper Boxes, (the beloved Doug Kershaw song), but that’s a personal call.
What will I need?
- Heart shaped box, salvaged for free or buy new box (and eat all chocolates)— Target is selling these Snoopy Whitman sampler boxes for 99cents. Or you can also make your own.
- Thick white glue, $2.00
- Hot glue, 50cents (assuming you already have a glue gun)
- Mardi Gras beads, recycled for free or buy a dozen at the dollar store – $1.00
- Miscellaneous beads, salvaged from broken jewelry, etc
- Seed beads, $1.00
Total cost: $2.50 – $6.00
Total Time: 20 minutes to assemble, dry overnight
How will I make it?
After removing any bows or frills or extra fabric from the top of the box, rim the edge of the box in a single line of hot glue and beads.
Filling the heart is entirely up to you. It’s a jumble. Jambalaya.
I put the center focus on an old heart shaped collar tag, then scattered a few chunky pieces of faux turquoise, and encircled each piece in a single row of Mardi Gras beads. Then I used other larger, single beads to form bridges in between each cluster, then wound more plastic beads around those…eventually forming a thick path of beads the wound all over the heart. To fill in the gap spaces, I used a thick white glue and liberally sprinkled inexpensive seed beads. 12 hours to dry, and it’s ready to go!
You can tell the glue is still drying on this one as it’s not 100% clear just yet. In retrospect I probably could have painted the box beforehand, but who has time for that when they are staring at a giant pile of sparkly beads?
My mother used to keep her jewelry in a ruffly pink chocolate box. There was a crushed velvet rose on top and the inside was segregated into a grid of waxed cardboard dividers which made it great for earrings or small items. I’m very loosy-goosy with most of my jewelry, and none of it is real, but some of it is old enough that I don’t want them bumping around and losing stones. These little candy linersare just the thing!
That center heart piece was from the collar of my first cat, Sam. He was an all-white longhair kitty that weighed in at 22 pounds. I named him Sam after my childhood idol, Samantha from Bewitched.
So the good news is I now have four nifty boxes to sort and store my baubles. The bad news has made me hungry for the last thing I need right now — more beads.
Anybody else have some ideas on how to use up old beads?