Sunday, July 20, 2014

Louisiana Spirits, Home of Bayou Rum, Lacassine, Louisiana

I don't know why, but sometimes there are things that I really want to do, but it takes me way too long to get around to doing them. One example is the relatively new rum distillery down the road (I-10) from Lake Charles. Louisiana Spirits opened around a year ago. Touring the facility has been on my list since then. Bob and I finally made the trip (about 20 minutes) yesterday.

Here's the billboard from I-10.

Rum is made from sugarcane. Sugarcane is one of Louisiana's primary crops. Surprisingly, Louisiana
Spirits is the only rum distillery in the state. They call their product "America's Rum" because they only use ingredients made in the U.S. Most of the ingredients are locally grown and produced. They use unrefined granulated cane sugar and molasses from the Louisiana sugar mill, Patout and Sons, founded in 1829, making it the oldest family-owned sugar refinery in the United States.

The distillery offers tours, where you can learn all about the history of rum making in Louisiana (It started with the Jesuits in the 1700s) and the modern day process and methods of the present facility. They don't allow photo taking on the tour, but we could take pictures through the glass.

I learned things like rum is required to be at least 80 proof. And their production line can fill 22 bottles in a minute.

They do allow photo-taking in the gift shop. Prior to this week, Louisiana Spirits sold only two varieties of rum -- Silver (plain) and Spiced. Their brand new product is a Satsuma rum. It won't be available in stores until August 1, but we brought a bottle home with us. Wow, is it yummy! It is 60 proof, which makes it technically a liqueur. For my non-Louisiana readers, a satsuma is similar to a mandarin orange and is native to the state.

They have a 4th rum in the works -- it's an aged rum. It ages in oak bourbon barrels from Kentucky for one year. So it won't be ready until December.

Naturally, at the end of the tour, there is tasting. Bob and I love the Spiced Rum.

One of the highlights of our tour was meeting Oscar, a one-month old raccoon who was rescued by the gentleman in the photo, Randy Harrah. Randy works at the distillery and calls himself the chief executive janitor. Oscar is as tame as a baby cat or dog. For now, anyway.

If you haven't yet been to Louisiana Spirits, it's worth the trip. Learn more on their website here.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Quaker Steak and Lube in Sulphur, La.

The first Quaker Steak and Lube in Louisiana recently opened. A couple months ago, I’d written a cover story about the new restaurant for the local magazine Jambalaya News (You can read that story here on page 32). That piqued my curiosity. Plus, there was a tad of Yankee nostalgia involved. Pennsylvania is “the Quaker State.” And Quaker Steak and Lube originated in Pa. I’d been wanting to try this new place in town (actually in Sulphur) since the grand opening, but was waiting for the hubbub to die down. Two things on my list of things I don’t like. Crowds. And waiting in line to eat. So last week, we went to Quaker Steak on a Tuesday evening around 7:00, thinking that might be a good time to go. Uh uh. The wait was around an hour. We didn't stay.

But I was still curious. The greeter said if we don’t want to wait, the best time to go there is between 2-4 p.m. So yesterday, Andrew and I (Bob was at work) went to Quaker Steak around 2:30 for a late lunch/early dinner. The place was packed! We were told it would be around a 20 minute wait. Heck, we had nothing else to do. But after maybe five minutes, we were told they had two seats at the bar. Fine.

Part of the fun at Quaker Steak is its unique theme. It’s all about cars and motorcycles, which hang from the ceiling in every room. License plates and other vehicle paraphernalia adorn the walls. The menu is fun to read, especially for car enthusiasts. The place is quirky and I like that.

Andrew and I both ordered “unleaded” lemonade and perused the menu.

We couldn't resist this mega-appetizer with onion rings, soft pretzels (skewered on a car antenna), fried pickle spears, and cheese sticks. Surely it’s designed to feed four or more. And indeed, we brought at least a third of it home for Bob.

Sitting at the bar, I couldn’t help but notice these Lube Tubes. They hold 100 ounces of beer and have a tap near the bottom. Uh, I don’t think so.

Since Quaker Steak is known for wings, we opted for that obvious choice. But the choice isn’t that easy. They have 26 different wing sauces to choose from. I ordered a "sprintster," which is a six-pack of wings in an egg carton. I couldn't choose just one sauce, so I ordered half Parmesan Pepper and half Chipotle BBQ. Andrew ordered boneless wings with Golden Garlic sauce. They were good. But messy.

Warmed “wing wags” for desaucification to the rescue! Please and thank you!

Readers, have you been to Quaker Steak and Lube, either here in Sulphur, in Pennsylvania, or in any state? What was your experience?

Baton Rouge, I think you're next.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Making a Move

I’ve taken a bit of a blogging hiatus, maybe you’ve noticed. But I do have an excuse. I normally report on my travels and adventures, but the truth is, I haven’t gone anywhere recently! Instead, I’ve been MOVING. Yes, we finally sold our home in Moss Bluff and moved into the home in Lake Charles that we bought 6 MONTHS AGO!

So we’ve been unpacking boxes and trying to find places for clothes, furniture, dishes, you name it. It’s been a challenge, moving from 2300 or so square feet of home to 1700ish square feet. Where do we put everything! But we knew this going in. Downsizing. That's the whole point. How much space does a couple, with an occasional son or two visiting, need? In preparation for the move, we’d been purging closets and cupboards for months. Apparently, it wasn’t enough. So I continue to practice the 3 Gs -- Goodwill, garage sale, garbage.

It’s a good feeling, really, eliminating everything that we don’t really need, want, or use. We just don’t need that much STUFF! De-cluttering makes life simpler, easier, less stressful.

The last time we moved was seven years ago – from Pittsburgh to Moss Bluff. Odd that I can’t really recall how long it took for us to get comfortable in the new place; how long till the boxes were cleared from rooms and each nick nack had a home. We had boxes in our attic that had never been unpacked, and now they are sitting in our garage. No way are they going up into this attic! If we haven’t used something in the past seven years, we probably never will.

For now, I’m a bit preoccupied with picture placements, towel bar installations, kitchen and master bath remodeling, and finding Bob’s missing fingernail kit. But I hope to be back on the road exploring again soon.

When was the last time you moved and how long did it take you to settle in and get comfortable?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Greater Good on a Goat Farm

Near Meridian, Texas, on the eastern fringe of the Lone Star State’s hill country, lies a quiet peaceful ranch populated by Matt and Miriam Wallace and their college-age son and daughter, Matt’s parents, Steve the farmhand, random revolving-door visitors, several cats, a couple dogs, two horses, and a large herd of Boer goats. The farm has been in Matt’s family since the early 1800s.

One would never guess from its unassuming outward appearance, but Valley View Farm is headquarters for Greater Good Global Support Services, G3S2 for short. This non-profit organization serves those who serve. They provide help to those who help others – a mission to those on a mission. They are self-professed problem solvers. G3S2 provides resources in the areas of technology, legal and financial issues, health and medical concerns, communication and logistics, global situational awareness, and risk management. A lost passport in a foreign country. A safe haven for persecuted minorities in a warzone. A need for a very large-sized nursing bra. No problem is too great or too small for G3S2 to tackle. Sometimes the answer is that there is no answer, but that knowledge is invaluable to the person asking. To learn more about G3S2, check out their website here.

Also nearby lies a sleepy hamlet called Cranfills Gap. We ate dinner there at this charming down-to earth biker bar. It’s the closest restaurant.

Our son Eric will spend his summer as an intern for G3S2. His goal is to help the organization update or revamp their extensive computer system, answer the phones, and help out in any way he can. In his down time, I hope he gets outside, enjoys and relaxes in this pristine setting, deep in the heart of Texas.

This 1947 Ford pick-up truck still runs.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend 2014

To my regular readers, I apologize for not keeping up with my blog as often as I usually do. I love to travel and explore and share my adventures with you. Presently, the primary "adventure" in my life revolves around real estate. We are in the middle of a slow-motion move from Moss Bluff to South Lake Charles. Between keeping the current home "show-ready" and working on getting the new home move-in ready, there's little time for leisure and entertainment.

Though we did see Journey and the Steve Miller Band last night in the Woodlands, Texas.

In honor of Memorial Day, I'm re-posting this one from 2012 about one of my favorite Lake Charles' traditions -- Avenue of the Flags.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Tribute to My Mom, Mother's Day 2014

This weekend we honor mothers. We celebrate our own mothers and grandmothers, being a mother (if we are one), and consider the children that have made us mothers.

I've been thinking about my Mom a lot lately. I just returned from a trip to Pennsylvania to visit with her and my family. Mom has Alzheimers. The disease has progressed rapidly over the past three or four years since her initial diagnosis. She's been living in a nursing home dedicated specifically to patients with dementia since January of this year. She's still as beautiful as ever.

Mom and her three girls; me, Sue, and Lisa.

Of course I was eager to see her -- I miss her tremendously -- but I was also apprehensive. Would she remember me? Would she know my name? Would she introduce me as her daughter? I didn't know what to expect. Thankfully, the answer to all those questions was Yes. While I'm incredibly heartbroken to see her there and know that that is where she has to be now, my visit with her was better than I imagined. She was thrilled to see me, especially on my first visit. Once, when I first got there and I looked for her, she saw me first and called, "Angie, Angie!" Words cannot describe the emotion that just hearing her say my name invoked.

This photo was taken last October, three months before she was admitted to the nursing home. Me, Mom, and my sister Lisa.

And this one a mere year ago when she and Lisa came to Louisiana for Eric's high school graduation.

It's overwhelming to me to realize how much things can change in the span of only one year.

This is Mom as a teenager.

And on her 70th birthday, just three years ago. Love you, Mom!

On the other end of the Mother's Day spectrum, our Eric comes home from college this weekend, just in time to spend the day with me. Andrew returns next weekend.

Wishing you all a Happy Mother's Day! How will you celebrate?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Sue Zimmerman -- Southwest Louisiana Watercolorist

As all my regular readers know, I love the lake area arts scene. One of my favorite local artists is watercolorist Sue Zimmerman. 

Sue and her friend and photographer Corene Soileau (pronounced swallow, for my non-Louisiana readers) currently have a collaborative show at the Art Associates Gallery inside the Central School Arts and Humanities Center, 809 Kirby St. Zimmerman chose several of Soileau's photos and painted corresponding pieces inspired by the photos. If you haven't yet seen the show, hurry to Central School! Tomorrow is the last day of the display. A closing reception is open to the public Friday May 2 from 5-8 PM. 

I contacted Zimmerman with a few questions and she graciously replied.

Me: How did you get started as a professional artist?

Sue: I've been painting in watercolor about 30 years. I started with a weekly painting class for about 10 years, then began an intense self study in watercolor. It was then that I began exhibiting and selling my artwork.

Me: What was the impetus for the current show?

Sue: Corene and I have been friends for about 25 years. We were always sharing creative ideas in her area of photography and in my painting . . . always in fun. For several years I've wanted to have a joint exhibit with her, but only recently was able to make it come about. To successfully integrate the two mediums there had to be a thread of connectivity. Since she had several great photos already, I chose my favorites and used each one as an inspiration for a new painting. Taking each photo, I created a new painting using either one of my own reference photos or finding new subject matter to express a similar feeling or tell a similar story. Some of the paired artwork was from the same moment in time when traveling together . . . we were both struck by the same sight. Our group of friends have traveled quite a bit, but our Montana trip produced a great amount of shared images, probably because it was a relaxing trip with no agenda.

Me: Do you have a favorite painting in the show?

Sue: My favorite painting, "Where the Shoe Hits the Pavement," was inspired by Corene's photo, "Hoofin' It." I loved her humorous, creative eye. With that photo in mind I took a few pics while in New Orleans of the carriage mules. This painting is what evolved . . . so not my usual subject but a great design!!

Me: What's next on your to do list?

Sue: I don't have a major project planned now, but I have several paintings planned. This collaboration has inspired me to get out of the box more and paint with inspiration rather than just a pretty picture.

Me: Thank you, Sue! Whatever you have planned, your fans look forward to it!