Tuesday, May 17, 2016

20 Questions To Shelita Who Kept Her Weight Off For Good

Losing weight, that's our life-long goal, right?  I have tried crash diets, have tried altering my lifestyle, have tried eating only those food compatible to my blood type, etc.  Have tried it all.  Yes, sure, I've lost weight, but how do I keep the weight?

Shelita, who at one time was 300 lbs. heavy, gives us tips on how to keep the lbs. off for good.

Below, she answered my 20 Questions:

1.    What is your full name?  Shelita Maria Martinez Prograis
2.    When is your birthday? Novermber 16, 1968
3.    Where were yoou born?  New Orleans, La.

4.    At what age did you start gaining more than your ideal weight?  13 years old.
5.    What is your heaviest weight, time period?  300 lbs.+, during my early 30s

6.   What made you decide to lose weight?  Health and appearance.
7.    What is the biggest factor on your weight loss?  How long did it take you from being obese to having normal weight?  My son being a Personal Trainer, 10 years.
8.    What is your target weight?  150 lbs.
9.    Do you exercise regularly?  If yes, how often?  Yes, at least 4 times a week.

10.  What is your exercise regimen?  90-minute treadmill walk, 60 minutes in elliptical machine
11.  Do you like to dance, and what kind if dance?  Yes.  Salsa and Zumba
12.  Do exercise with weights, how much?  Yes, very light - 10 to 15 lbs.

13.  Have you done skinny-dipping, are yiou comfortable being nude?  NO, hell no!  Lol :D
14.  Do you drink, and if yes, how often?  Occasionally.

15.  Do you smoke, and if yes, how many a day? No.
16.  Have you ever been in physical fight?  No.

17.  Have you ever cheated in a relationship.   Yes.
18.  Have you been cheated on?  Yes
19.  Have you had a one-night-stand?  How many and do you regret any of them?  Yes, once and no regrets.
20.  What advice can you give to those who have weight problems?

  • Get serious.
  • Get focused.
  • Set a realistic goal on a realistic time frame.
  • Monitor your food intake.
  • Practice portion control.
  • Learn to love exercise :)
  • Don't eat after 7 PM, five days a week!!!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Jazz Market Grand Opening

Exciting News for Jazz Enthusiasts -- 

Tonight marked the grand opening of Jazz Market at 1436 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. corner Martin Luther King boulevard. It is NOJO's (New Orleans Jazz Orchestra) first building project.   NOJO is founded in 2002 by trumpeter, composer, arranger, and bandleader Irvin Mayfield.   NOJO is the first and only performing arts institution committed solely to the development of an industry for Jazz in the city that created the music.  The New Orleans Jazz Market will feature music education experiences for all ages, a New Orleans Jazz Archive, tributes to current and past Jazz Masters, and perfomances by Irvin Mayfield, NOJO and other renowned musicians.  The space also includes a coffee shop, bar and digital learning center.


When we'd just moved to St. Charles Avenue, I remember some friends advising us to go anywhere northeast towards the business center and the French Quarter or southeast towards the Garden District, but never southwest where it is risky and dangerous especially at night time.  News about shootings  add to these apprehensions.  

Recently though, it is heartwarming that this seemingly neglected neighborhood in the southwest is now a venue for  music and art activities, and new businesses.  We roamed around and found new art galleries, a food museum, new restaurants and new grocery stores in the vicinity.  It is also reassuring what Councilwoman Ms. Latoya Cantrell said, One thing we will see on the boulevard is a nightlife, and we have to be prepared for it, that’s my job.”
Okay, let's go back to the Jazz Market.  The place was full of  guests and musicians, politicians and people like us who are happy for this development.

Here's part of Irvin Mayfield's speech:

Performance of Ms. Dee Dee Bridgewater and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra:

Below are pictures of the  distinguished guests.

Here are the some of the details of the events as posted by nojocms:



Official Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony Kicks Off Weekend of Activities, Month of Events
Posted by: nojocms
Official Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony Kicks Off Weekend of Activities, Month of Events
NEW ORLEANS (March 26, 2015) – The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) celebrated the grand opening of the Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market (PHNOJM) with a weekend of festivities, beginning Thursday, April 2nd with the official ribbon-cutting ceremony on its new facility, which provides music education and community events, live performances by Irvin Mayfield, NOJO and other renowned musicians, and a developing New Orleans Jazz Archive.
WHAT: Grand Opening of the Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market
Celebration kicks off a weekend of festivities and month of events
WHEN: Thursday, April 2, 2015 ( 7p.m.-10 p.m.)
7 p.m.: Grand Opening celebration hosted by Councilmember LaToya Cantrell and NOJO Board Chairman Ron Forman; Event will feature musical performances by NOJO’s Artistic Director Irvin Mayfield with Honorary NOJO Board Chair and legendary vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater; Speakers will include Nick Karl of Peoples Health, Margaret Anadu of Goldman Sachs’ Urban Investment Group, Ommeed Sathe of Prudential Financial Inc., Mikki Shepard of the Apollo Theater, and leaders from the PHNOJM’s other key partnerships.
10 p.m.:  After Party at Bolden Bar in the PHNOJM featuring Walter “Wolfman” Washington and the Roadmasters.
WHERE: Grand opening festivities begin (7 p.m.); Official Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony (8 p.m.) at The Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market (1436 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, New Orleans)
Event After-Party (10 p.m.):  Bolden Bar in the PHNOJM
The People Health New Orleans Jazz Market (PHNOJM) is located at the intersection of Oretha Castle Haley and Martin Luther King Boulevards in Central City, in the former Gators Department Store building, which once housed the historic Dryades Market.

About the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO)
NOJO creates Jazz to enhance life, transform place, and elevate spirit through the tenets of truth, love and beauty.  Founded in 2002 by trumpeter, composer, arranger, and bandleader Irvin Mayfield, NOJO is the first and only performing arts institution committed solely to the development of an industry for Jazz in the city that created the music.  For more information, please visit www.thenojo.com.

Please read also:


With all these developments, we are definitely glad we decided to move here in New Orleans!  Plus ... this gives me double happiness:  A new Filipino kamayan style restaurant will also open in the near future.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ellis Marsalis Jr., Special Guest at Jazz at the Sandbar

Finally, Jazz at the Sandbar at the UNO (University of New Orleans) is back!
The place was fully packed with professors, students and outside guests.
What better way to start by having the iconic Ellis Marsalis, Jr. as the first guest.  Ellis Marsalis is well known as a modern jazz pianist,  not only in New Orleans but internationally too.  As you may know, Ellis Marsalis Center for Music is named after him.  Mr. Marsalis is committed to preserve the New Orleans culture, especially jazz and to give opportunity to young jazz musicians to realize their dreams.  He is also a father to to six sons who are all musically gifted.

"It is a bit ironic that Ellis Marsalis had to wait for sons Wynton and Branfordto get famous before he was able to record on a regular basis, but Ellis finally received his long-overdue recognition. The father of six sons (includingWyntonBranfordDelfeayo, and Jason), Ellis Marsalis' main importance to jazz may very well be as a jazz educator; his former pupils (in addition to his sons) include Terence BlanchardDonald Harrison, Harry Connick, Jr.,Nicholas Payton, and Kent and Marlon Jordan, among others. He started out as a tenor saxophonist, switching to piano while in high school". Marsalis was one of the few New Orleans musicians of the era who did not specialize in Dixieland or rhythm & blues. He played with fellow modernists (including Ed Blackwell) in the late '50s with AFO, recorded with Cannonball and Nat Adderley in the 1960s, played with Al Hirt (1967-1970), and was busy as a teacher. Marsalis freelanced in New Orleans during the 1970s and taught at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. He recorded with Wynton andBranford on Father and Sons in 1982, an album that they shared with Chico and Von Freeman. After that, Marsalisrecorded for ELM, Spindletop (a duet session with Eddie Harris), Rounder, Blue Note, and Columbia, issuing Twelve's It on the latter in 1998. Duke in Blue followed a year later. Since that time, Marsalis has kept busy releasing Afternoon Session, An Open Letter to Thelonious, and Ruminations".

Ellis Marsalis played modern jazz, but his sentimentality and old world charm permeated his music.  His sound is unhurried, rich and sweet. 

Watch this:

Watch this too, with Jordan Baker on keyboard: 

Aside from the regular performers who are all superb and professional-sounding -- Albert Allenback-tenor sax, Jeronne Ansari-alto sax, Jordan Baker-piano, Tanarat Chaichana-bass, Glenn Hall-trumpet, and Peter Varnado-drums, Miss Amber Matthews performed with them.  Isn't she as cute as a button! She has nice melodious voice and her young innocent looks makes her an eye candy.   I guess as she matures she will be more sassy and adventurous in her renditions.   
Amber Matthews

We are so looking forward for next week's treat at the Jazz at the Sandbar featuring trumpeter and UNO alumnus, Master of Music 2013,  Ashlin Parker.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Twenty Questions With Marian Hebert


Marian Hebert is an artist from  New Orleans.  Her fierce love of New Orleans in reflected in her art, and her art speaks for itself.  I am so pleased to refer you to her website.

1.  Tell us something about yourself.
Ever since childhood, I wanted to be an artist.  My husband of many years always encourages me.  I am a native of New Orleans.  Basically I am self-taught.  However I have the good fortune to paint with some excellent water colorists over the years.  No longer am I an instructor. It was time for me to paint.

2.  Is there another area of human endeavor in  which you dreamed of excelling, e.g.,  did you want to be a musician, act in a great film, etc?
Another human endeavor?  I am a very spiritual person, mystical if you will.  This mysticism has been present my entire life.  To acquire a balance of my art and the mysticism in the way that heals our planet.

3.  How would you describe your work?
Very unusual is the word many acquaintances use.

4.  What's it like to be an artist?

We look at the world differently I am told.  Everything is a possibility to be a painting.  I look beyond the color to see what makes it that hue.  I often stare at things far too long.

5.  What's your first ever work of art, do you still have it, if not, where is it?
I have not a clue.  It was something I sketched as a child and tossed aside.  Whatever I did as an adult in the early days was given away or disposed of.  That is a bad habit.  A few months ago I ripped and discarded a few paintings.

6.  Aside from painting, what are your other interests?
I am an avid reader.  I like the usual things like long walks, gardening, cooking and animals.  The paranormal really interests me.

7.  Do these interests influence your art?

Yes, my art is greatly influenced by animals.  I love the expressions on dogs and cats.  One of my galleries is named weird things that is often influenced by portals.

8.  What was your first commission?
Oh my!  It was something obscene!  I would rather not talk about it.

9.  What's the favorite painting that you have done?  
I have two, actually.  In 2001 I painted an angel with long dark hair, and is looking towards the sky.  His face is hidden and most of his body is concealed by very unusual wings.  He has never been at a show and I doubt he will ever be photographed.  The other is Blond Man.

10.  What inspires you?  

My beloved New Orleans inspires me often. Dreams have also great effect on my paintings.

11.  What's your favorite tool of the trade and what do you use it for?

My black velvet one-inch paint brush.  It takes about six months to fully train this brush.  I know exactly what it will do.

12.  What are you working on at the present, what's next?  

White lions to be exact.  A sketch of one is looking at me now.  I live with my art in progress.

13.  When you are not working, what do you like to do?  

Visiting with family and friends, taking long walks through City Park, surfing the internet.  

14.  What kind of music do you like?

I am a fan of Ozzy Osbourne, Guns N'  Roses, Heavy Metal.  I like the screaming guitars.

15.  What is your favorite color and why?

Purple, it is a mystical color.

16.  What are you reading at the moment?

A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Hawkness.  It is a trilogy.  

17.  What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

Paint what is inside of you.  

18.  It writers get writer's block, what do artists get?

A blank canvas or  paper.  It  does happen.  To sit and stare at a blank canvass is frustrating.  My world becomes flat.

19.  If you could be anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

An artist, because it is my destiny.

20.  Do you have any tips for budding artists?
Let the painting talk to you.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Aurora Nealand and the Royal Roses

With Matthew Bell on vocals/guitar. The song is titled, "I'm Walking This Town" and was popularized by The Spirits of Rhythm in the early 1930's. The Royal Roses include Dave Boswell (trumpet), Paul Thibodeaux (drums), Matt Bell (guitar), Nathan Lambertson (bass), Michael Watson (trombone) and Aurora Nealand on soprano sax and clarinet. Here's Aurora's website:http://www.auroranealand.com/

Friday, April 19, 2013

UNO Jazz

Have you been to the UNO  Jazz at the Sandbar?  UNO, as in University of New Orleans, my dears.  That's one of our new favorite places for jazz.  We go regularly at the Spotted Cat, Maison, Fritzel's, Palm Court, Preservation Hall, etc.,  but there's nothing like jazz at the UNO Lakefront Campus.  For one, we are always assured of good seats; two, there is always a good table waiting for us (one of the tables in front, just below the stage. Not that they reserved it for us, but I guess students have the habit of avoiding the front tables and seats);  three,  nobody gets out of hand being drunk; four, they have reasonably-priced good food and drinks, (yes, even beer and wine!), and last but not the least, the jazz is incredibly great, albeit mostly it's modern jazz and we have preference for the traditional jazz.  Jazz at the Sandbar happens every Wednesday.  They also invite famous musicians for their events, mostly music graduates of the university.  Do you know that the likes of Mark Braud, Gregory Agid, Danielle Wilson, Jamison Ross,  and I am sure many other famous musicians who I have not known yet, come from UNO?  

The last time we went, they had  singer Ms. Kate McGarry and guitarist Keith Ganz. Ms. Kate McGarry sure is a professional singer.  Her stage presence is strong, she mesmerized the audience. I particularly admire her scat singing, she is awesome!   Mr. Keith Ganz is passionate and produced emotionally-charged sounds.  Here they are in their rendition of Charade:

We were also treated to two groups of artists, one under the direction of Hank McKie and the other, under the direction of Steve Masakowski.  Both of these groups wowed the audience with their guitar sounds. The drummers were awesome, especially Matt Keegan.  His timing is impeccable,  he's a genius with drums. 
Here's their rendition of Besame Mucho:
It was fun watching these young musicians jam with each other,  oftentimes smiling at each other, in that way approving and complimenting each other's performance. 

We are grateful that UNO Jazz Studies Program opens its doors not only to all UNO students but also to  jazz enthusiasts like us.  We certainly love our Wednesday nights spent with your prodiguous music students! 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My First Mardi Gras

This was my first Mardi Gras experience, and it was just the way I expected it - lots of colorful floats (Krewes), beads or 'throws' tossed,  people in masks and costumes and festive, friendly atmosphere all over.


What images do Mardi Gras evoke for you? To many, it's a carnival. Are Carnival and Mardi Gras the same thing? No, Melania, don't confuse Carnival and Mardi Gras! Carnival refers to the period of feasting and fun which always begins on January 6th, The Feast of the Epiphany.

Mardi Gras refers to Fat Tuesday, the final day of revelry before Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. (Source:http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/faq.html#three)


You might ask, who organizes and pays for Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras parade krewes are private non-profit organizations whose members get together year round to plan their parade's theme, costumes, and unique throws. Each Carnival Club, as they are known, is individually funded by its members. They support their krewe through dues, sales of krewe-related merchandise to their members, and fundraising. Mardi Gras parade krewes may not have corporate sponsors.

The city of New Orleans is not involved in coordinating Mardi Gras parades -- their only involvement is to issue parade permits to each individual Mardi Gras krewe who schedules and coordinates their own parades. (Source: http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/faq.html#five).

Aerial view from St. Charles Avenue, NOLA

Yes, literally  Mardi Gras  means "Fat Tuesday", an annual celebration held in Mobile, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana, United States.

A krewe often names their parade after a particular Roman or Greek mythological hero or god like Hermes, Thoth, Edymion, Zulu, etc.

The ranking structure of a Mardi Gras Krewe is a parody of royalty: King, Queen, Dukes, Knights and Captains, or some variation on that theme. Many more established krewes allowed membership by invitation only. (source:http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/mardigrasindians.html)

Krewe float riders toss throws to the crowds; the most common throws are strings of plastic colorful beads.   Watch these two videos I recorded just for you:

While many tourists center their Mardi Gras season activities on Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, none of the major Mardi Gras parades has entered the Quarter since 1972 because of its narrow streets and overhead obstructions. Instead, major parades originate in the Uptown and Mid-City districts and follow a route along St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street, on the upriver side of the French Quarter. Exposing body parts, or "flashing",in an effort to catch more beads or throws, is frowned up by the police department and can be grounds for a ticket or an arrest.

 Major krewes follow the same parade schedule and route each year.

One of the floats at St. Charles Avenue

Why are masks worn?

By law, float riders must always have a mask on. On Fat Tuesday, masking is legal for everyone else, and the elaborate masks that some wear add to the fun.


Also, as one of the thousands who'd catch beads and other goodies, you'd like to stand out in the crowd.   It's a good idea to wear a costume or something unique.

Sometimes a crazy hat will do the trick.


Gimmicks like this catch the eye and actually work :)


How long have "throws" been around?

The tradition of float riders throwing trinkets to the crowds began in the 1870s, and still continues today. Typical throws include beads, cups, doubloons, and stuffed animalMardi Gras beads and other goodies.

Our 'catch' for the day - beads, stuffed toy, plastic cigar, ball

Painted Coconut Shell
And if you have not been thrown what you like, you could always buy from the street peddlers.


             Mardi Gas Symbols and Colors

King Cake

Our King Cake. Notice the 'trinket', small plastic baby nesting on the beads. This plastic baby s represents Baby Jesus and is hidden inside (or sometimes placed underneath) the cake, and the person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket has various privileges and obligations.
In the U.S. Gulf Coast since the 1950s, the most common trinket has been a small plastic baby doll. Earlier ceramic baby boys as trinkets are documented in New Orleans back to the 1930s. A king wearing a crown is the next most common trinket. Other figures have been seen historically, and starting in the 1990s again became more common in the more expensive "gourmet" varieties of king cake. In New Orleans in recent years, figurines are sold in the shape of a breast or penis, or depict a man or woman in a lascivious pose. The common plastic baby of today is usually colored pink, brown, white or gold. Because of the potential choking hazard, some bakeries include the trinket separately from the pastry.

Privileges and obligations

The person who gets the trinket is declared the King or Queen of the day. Sometimes there are separate cakes to select the king and queen. In New Orleans, the cake for women is sometimes called a Queen Cake. The king or queen is usually obligated to supply the next king cake or host the next party or both. King cake parties may be held at the homes of people who live on or near the routes of Mardi Gras parades.

Ever wonder about the history of the official Mardi Gras colors? Rex selected the official Mardi Gras colors in 1872, honoring the visiting Russian Grand Duke Alexis Alexis Alexandrovich Romanoff, who suggested the colors. The 1892 Rex Parade theme "Symbolism of Colors" affirmed the colors' meaning.

Purple Represents Justice. Green Represents Faith. And Gold Represents Power.
Note that the building decor below used the Mardi Gras colors for this festive season.

It's cool to wear Mardi Gras color too:
After the parade, the garbage was remarkable:

A friend said that  the 'success' or popularity of the Mardi Gras parade is measured by the amount of garbage collected afterwards.  I'd say that judging by the tons and tons of garbage collected, the Mardi Gras parade was a super success!
But the garbage was only temporary, as the cleaners and garbage trucks were very quick to the draw.
  Sweepers were so fast at clearing the streets

Garbage collection was fast

Everything was back to normal  at Charles Avenue

Let me finish by quoting once more from MardiGrasNewOrleans.com:

We try to remember what Mardi Gras has always been in this predominantly Catholic/Christian city--the last day before Ash Wednesday, when we receive ashes and begin 40 days of sacrifice in imitation of Our Lord, ending at Easter when we celebrate the Resurrection!
And even as the Mardi Gras Parade is over, - let the good times roll

Laissez les bons temps rouler!!