Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving

We had no family to get together with this year for Thanksgiving. So we invited another family here in Moss Bluff, new to the area, to come over and celebrate with us. We spent an enjoyable evening, talking and eating. In addition to the traditional fare, each year we want to include a local dish on our menu. Last year we cooked a turducken. This year we had boudin. Next year . . . I'm thinking gumbo.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Baton Rouge-Part 2

First on our agenda Tuesday was an easy hike on the Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Trail. It was morning and cool, but for some reason, we disappointedly saw very little wildlife. Still a pretty walk though.

Then into the city. Along the river, the HMS Bounty is moored for a short visit in Baton Rouge. This tall ship was created to be a star. Around 1960, MGM built her for the movie "Mutiny on the Bounty." She's also appeared in "Sponge Bob Square Pants" and "Pirates of the Carribean II." Here's a shot of the ship and one of Eric and I with Captain Jack Sparrow.















Right next door is the USS Kidd, a retired naval destroyer from WWII. As if I need a reminder of my clautrophobia, we took the self-guided tour and were amazed at the tight quarters. The boys were really into it, especially Bob. I think he's ready to join the Navy. Especially impressive were the big guns, which Andrew is demonstrating below.

















After a late lunch at an unremarkable but tasty and filling buffet, we looked through the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum. I would rather have seen the LS State Museum, as the boys are currently studying La. history in Social Studies, but LASM was closer. The clock soon gave out, as did my feet. Everything closed, so it was time to go home. There were many attractions we wanted to see and do but didn't have time for. Guess we'll just have to go back again someday.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Baton Rouge-Part 1

Bob and the boys are off this whole week for Thanksgiving. We decided to take advantage of the time off and take a mini-vacation. We'd never been to Baton Rouge, so Sunday afternoon we hopped on I-10 and headed east. By the time we arrived in our state capitol, it was late in the afternoon and not many tourist attractions were open. We strolled the LSU campus, met their mascot Mike the Tiger, then had dinner at Boutin's, a great Cajun restaurant.

Monday morning, our first stop was the Coffee Call for beignet fingers and cafe au lait. The beignets were good but suspiciously similar to funnel cakes. Then we drove up River Road toward St. Francisville. Besides field after swaying field of sugar cane, what struck us immediately were the large numbers of blue-tarped roofs. We knew that Baton Rouge had been hit hard by Hurricane Gustav, that many areas had lost power for up to ten days. But seeing all the blue roofs make the reports real. We crossed the mighty Mississippi river on a ferry boat at St. Francisville. While parked in line, awaiting the ferry, a woman parked in front of us kept throwing small dark objects out of her car. We were baffled as to what she was littering. We guessed she must have been cleaning something out, but what? And why was she tossing them out the window? When we finally moved forward to board the ferry, we looked down out the windows and saw Oreo cookies minus the filling. She'd been sitting there eating the white creamy middles and throwing the chocolate cookie part away. Imagine! Tossing the best part! We got a good laugh out of that.

After the ferry, we found Rosedown Plantation. I told the boys I learn more history in one house tour than I would in a whole semester of a history class or in any book. I imagine it's 1830 and I've just moved into my new mansion, mistress of the manor. What a different lifestyle! Both the beautifully restored mansion and the gardens were lovely.

After Rosedown, we had lunch at a charming little restaurant called Magnolia Cafe. Then on to the Audubon Historical Site and Oakley Plantation. John Audubon had briefly tutored the daughter of the owner of Oakley Plantation, while adding to his bird painting collection, hence the connection. It was interesting to see the contrasts between the two plantations, each unique and different. There's also a wonderful nature trail on the property. On the grounds at Oakley, there's a turkey named Gus who thinks he's a dog. He's friendly and loves to be petted.
As we drove south back to Baton Rouge, evening descended and a thick blanket of fog shrouded the countryside.

That evening, we visited our friends, the Cavells. They adopted our dog Holly (which we owned all of four months) last summer. Holly's thriving there. She's still happy and very excited to see people. We don't know for sure, but we like to think she remembered us.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gumbo

It's gumbo season, so I'm told. And I love it. Lately, I've been ordering gumbo at every restaurant I've patronized. Chicken and sausage is wonderful, as is seafood. There's also wild game gumbo, but I don't go there. Trying to figure out what's in wild game gumbo is akin to determining what's in a hot dog. I'd rather not know. Gumbo is so popular down here. I have a friend who is near thirty years old, and she told me she's only had turkey for Thanksgiving once in her life. Her family serves gumbo. Imagine that! Most folks own big 'ol gumbo pots. I don't have one. I don't know how to make gumbo. Not sure I want to learn. I might be happy just to continue eating other peoples' gumbo. The word gumbo is derived from the Bantu African word nkombo. A gumbo cook starts with a roux. I make roux too when I make my award-winning macaroni and cheese. But gumbo roux is brown. Gumbo's secret ingredient is file (FEE-lay) which is ground sassafras leaves. And, of course, okra. Essentially, it's a spicy warm brown stew poured over a big bowl of rice. I'm meeting some friends tomorrow for lunch. I hope gumbo is on the menu.
photo courtesy of PDPhoto.org

Monday, November 17, 2008

More on "Home"

Here are some photos of my recent trip "home" to Pennsylvania. They are me and all my nieces and nephew, me and my sisters, and me and some dear friends from Pittsburgh. I miss every one of them already.






Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Going Home

Last Thursday I flew home to Pittsburgh. My sister Lisa had a baby recently and I couldn't wait any longer to see my new nephew. On the plane, I had a window seat so I was able to gaze down (over and around the wing. I'm always in a seat by a wing) at the mossy brown landscape. The terrain undulated, rippling for as far as my eyes could see. I miss the hills. I was on the right side of the plane, so was able to see the city, beautiful and glistening in the setting sun, as we neared the the airport.

I rented a car and hurried to meet some friends for dinner. As I drove up 279 into the North Hills, the familiarity of it all sang in my heart, "I'm home!" Such a sense of peace settles over me when I'm "home." I had a blast, visiting with family and friends these past five days.

And now I'm at the airport, waiting to "go home." I miss Bob and the kids. And the warm weather! It's been freezing up here. I'm excited to get back to my family, my house, the gym, church, the conference committee, and the usual routine. So I guess it's possible to have more than one "home." And it's always good to go back.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Trunk or Treat

Happy (belated) Halloween! This year, my family helped at our church, First Presbyterian Church of Lake Charles, with its annual Trunk or Treat event. I had never heard of this before moving, so if they do this in Pittsburgh, I was never aware of it. But it's huge down here. Many area churches host Truck or Treat to give neighborhood families a safe alternative to traditional trick or treating. Folks decorate their cars, open their trunks, which spill over with candy. And then they come, costumed kids from all over the neighborhood. When the church folk told me they had made 600 hot dogs, I thought they were nuts. But we gave away almost all of them! Obviously, no one has more fun than Pastor Fred.