Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Rikenjaks Brewing Company

Rikenjaks Brewing Company in Lake Charles is open for business! This much anticipated brew pub had beer enthusiasts on the edge of their bar stool for several months. But their home brews Old Hard Head and Contraband Brown Ale were worth the wait.

Supposedly they are still in their "soft opening" stage. But the place has been packed most every night for weeks; both inside the cozy bar and outside on the patio by the outdoor bar.

Because they're so busy, the wait for food requires some patience. But on a recent visit, my family and I didn't mind because there's this crazy fun outdoor game area. And there's live music to listen to.

We've only been there once so far to eat, but I think the food is good. The kids had burgers and Bob and I had fish tacos.

And here's my new favorite beer, Old Hard Head.

Out of town friends and family, come visit me and I'll take you to this fun place for good food and beer. (Locals, I know you've all already been there.)

Located at 3716 Ryan St., Lake Charles, and online at

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Swallow Falls State Park, Maryland

Everyone has places they consider favorites. We say things like, "It's one of my favorite places in the whole world," even though we've only seen a small fraction of the whole world. But if we define "the whole world" as our own personal limited experience of the world, well, then the expression works.

Swallow Falls State Park is one of my "favorite places in the whole world."

Muddy Creek Falls

Rock formation at the base of Swallow Falls

I grew up in these woods; knew the rocks, the trails, the water intimately. My family camped there frequently, often with another family we were great friends with, the Flanders. In my youthful imagination, colorful mushrooms became umbrellas for fairy folk and hidden rock formations served as enclaves for elves.

Me and my friend Chris Flanders hiking the trails, no doubt looking for fossils. I was maybe 14 years old. Or so?

As I grew older, I sensed God in the majesty; the rush of the river, the scent of pine and primordial decay, the glisten of dewdrops on pink rhododendron petals, the texture of cool green moss. The place became sacred to me.

Tulliver Falls

In my 20s, I took any friend who would go with me to this park. I wanted to share its beauty and serenity. I hadn't been there in too many years, and though I'm sure they were there at some point when they were very young, I had the pleasure of taking my sons to this favorite place last week when we traveled to Pennsylvania and Maryland to visit family and friends. My dad and step-mom Mary came with us.

My Happy Place

Where's your favorite place in the whole world?

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for Zydeco Music -- #atozchallenge

The "unincorporated community" (aka lots of crop fields and a few houses) of Plaisance, La., which I'd never heard of until I researched zydeco festivals, hosts the annual Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival.

The event got its start 34 years ago as a way to celebrate and preserve the rich history of zydeco music in Louisiana. Key instruments in this genre are the accordian and washboard. Zydeco is said to have originated with the French Creoles, but this Wiki link suggests there are Atakapa (Louisiana native American Indians) and African roots, as well. All I know is the music is fun, upbeat, and people love to dance to the lively sounds. Check out this video by Chubby Carrier at a festival a few years ago.

One of my most fun experiences of zydeco happens every Saturday morning over in Breaux Bridge at Cafe de Amis's Zydeco breakfast. It's a blast! Read that post here.

For more information on the festival, see their website here.

And that, folks, concludes the 2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for the Yambilee Festival in Opelousas, La. -- #atozchallenge

I've been to Opelousas a couple times, but I was not aware they have such a passion for yams. The French, Spanish, and Acadians learned to eat sweet potatoes around 1760 from the Native American Indians who lived in Louisiana. The Sweet Golden Yam has been a stable on Louisiana dinner tables since then.

This festival to celebrate yams and Louisiana farming has been an annual event since 1946 and takes place late November. I've often wondered if there is a botanical difference between yams and sweet potatoes. The festival website uses the words interchangeably, so I'm guessing not.

I've never been to this festival, but as I said, I've been to Opelousas. You can read about one adventure to the interesting historic town here.

And I've eaten Louisiana yams. I love to buy them at farmers markets or roadside stands. They're very good!
For more festival information, check the website.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X is for the ThibodeauXville Fall Festival

Like I imagine many of my fellow A to Z Bloggers, I must stretch the parameters a bit to find a subject, in this case a festival, to write about that starts with the letter X.

Here in Louisiana, SO many words, especially last names and the names of towns, which are often one and the same, END in the letter X. It's the whole French influence and heritage thing. Words I never knew existed prior to moving to LA. But I can, after nine years, tell you I'm getting MUCH better at pronouncing said words.

One common last name is Thibodeaux (TIB-o-dough). The same name can also be spelled, depending on the family, Thibodaux. There's a town by the same name. The Thibodaux Chamber of Commerce sponsors an annual event they call the Thibodeauxville Fall Festival. Thibodeauxville apparently was the original name of Thibodaux. The event is held on the second Saturday of each November, and I read they have arts and crafts, music, a car show, and fabulous food. Interestingly, no two food vendors can offer the same food. So I guess there is quite a variety! And there's a Louisiana inspired cook-off . . .
 . . . and a "famous duck race" where hundreds of yellow, rubber ducks float down Bayou Lafourche. Each duck is numbered and tickets cost $5 each. May the fastest duck win!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W is for the DeRidder Watermelon Festival -- #atozchallenge

After we moved to southwest Louisiana in the summer of 2007, I was determined to discover everything I could about this new country, er, I mean state. We called it our Summer of Immersion. One way to learn about a culture is to do what the locals do, see what they see, eat what they eat, listen to their music and their language. In other words, go to festivals.

Louisiana festivals have been the theme of my A to Z Blogging Challenge. W is for the the DeRidder Watermelon Festival. This was the very first festival we attended after moving to Lake Charles.

We drove north on Highway 171, taking in the terrain, until we came to the railroad town of DeRidder, about a 30-40 minute drive from our home in Moss Bluff. It wasn't hard to find the festival. We strolled around the fairgrounds, and because it was a watermelon festival, we were in search of some watermelon to eat. When we saw the price of a "slice" of the sweet juicy melons they grow in Sugartown, La. (population 54), we were a bit perplexed. The cost was more than we expected for a "slice" of melon. So we ordered just two. And then we understood why they were "expensive." The "slice" was more like a slab! We asked for four sporks and dug in!

Read about our Summer of Immersion here and learn more about the June 23-25 watermelon festival here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V is for VooDoo Experience -- #atozchallenge

In Louisiana, V is for Voodoo and of course, there's a festival for that.

This festival does not celebrate the actual practice of voodoo. No gris-gris bags or cloth dolls stuck with pins. Well, I suppose there may be some vendors . . . But the Voodoo Experience is an annual New Orleans festival that features art and "high octane" (aka hard rock/heavy metal) music over or around Halloween. This year's event takes place October 28-30. With Halloween as a seasonal backdrop, most festival-goers attend in costume. Festivities take place at New Orleans City Park.

The 2016 line-up has not yet been released, but past performers include Ozzy Osbourne, KISS, Marilyn Manson, Pearl Jam, Muse, Neil Young, Calvin Harris, Skrillex and Nine Inch Nails. 

I'll not be attending this event -- not my scene. But it is yet another example of the rich, diverse culture that defines Louisiana.

What genres of music do you enjoy?