Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Merry Christmas

Here are a couple photos from Christmas morning.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

This year is a bit tough for me. My family and I are staying here in Lake Charles. It's the first time in my entire life that I'm away from extended family on Christmas Eve; Mom and Tom, my sisters and brothers-in-law, nieces, and nephew. And I'm missing both family and friends. We did go to Houston yesterday and visited with Bob's sister Cathy and her family, and that was nice. This evening we attended a wonderful Christmas Eve service at our church, First Presbyterian Church of Lake Charles. Heavenly music, an inspiring message, communion, candles. It was quite emotional for me. Bob and I made gumbo for dinner. I was able to see my family gathered at Mom's house for a little while with the use of Skype on our computers, and that was great. The four of us watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, which was pretty funny. The boys and I had never seen it before. We're trying to make the holiday special, but it's so oddly quiet. I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a blessed joyous New Year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bells

I heard the bells on . . . okay, not quite Christmas day, but we're getting close. This evening, we saw the Bayou Bell Choir concert at Central School. Nothing rings in Christmas like a bell choir. The music is so peaceful, soothing, relaxing. And who doesn't need a little of that in their life right now. I know I do. I'm amazed at how a dozen performers, each ringing their bells at the appointed times, create such rhythm, melody, and harmony. Ring on.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Exercise

In Pittsburgh, I belonged to Bally's for many years. When I moved to Lake Charles, I was disappointed that there was only one Bally's in all of Louisiana . . . in Baton Rouge. Well, that wouldn't work. It was summer time when we first arrived. The kids were home, and I usually went outside early in the morning, before it got too hot, to either walk, roller blade, or bike ride. But once the kids started school, I set out to find a gym. There weren't a lot of options, especially here in Moss Bluff. Curves isn't my scene. LA Fitness was small, lacked energy, and offered no classes. Then a neighbor told me about Dynamic Dimensions. It was perfect. A spacious aerobic and weight room. And lots of classes. In Pa., I didn't focus much on the classes, just went in and did my own thing. But being new to the area, the classes helped me feel like a part of something and I've made friends there. The hour-long classes are fun and challenging. And I do them all; Cycling (spinning, stationary biking), Kick (kickboxing), Power (weightlifting), Centergy ( a combo of yoga, pilates, and tai chi), and Step aerobics. Except Groove. I'm not into dancing. I go most every morning, sometimes taking two classes back to back. Exercise is my sanity. Can't live without it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Snow!


Here's something you don't see often around here. Snow! I'm told it hasn't snowed here in Lake Charles since 1989! Andrew was thrilled, and simultaneously disappointed because school was not cancelled. Not an unreasonable emotion, as several other nearby parishes did cancel or delay school. There's no salt down here, so roads can easily get slick in weather like this. If a certain road is icy, they simply close the road. I took a photo quick this morning because it will likely melt soon after the sun comes up, a high in the 50s is predicted for today. The temperature will be back to 70 by Sunday.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Parades

One thing southwest Louisiana and southwest Pennsylvania have in common is their love of parades. Pittsburgh especially loves parades, but I can honestly say, in my 25 years living in Pittsburgh, I never once attended a downtown parade. I didn't want to fight the crowds or fuss with parking. Or stand in the cold. Besides, WPXI aired the Celebrate the Season parade on TV. Here in SWLA, Lake Charles has a parade for every occasion, as does each surrounding smaller town, our own Moss Bluff included. Parades celebrate Christmas, Homecoming, Independence Day, and festivals such as Contraband Days, to name a few. Lake Charles has at least four or five parades for Mardi Gras alone. Even the dogs have their own parade.

We went to the Lake Charles Christmas parade today. (60 degrees and sunny) Andrew and Eric rode on our church's float. This photo of First Presbyterian's float was taken at last year's Christmas parade.

Oh, the pageantry. The parade marshall was followed by the Harley Club. What a lot of bikes. Looked like fun. Soon after came our mayor, Randy Roach. There were high school marching bands, cajun bands, radio station vans. Floats carried a brownie troop, the Little League champs, church groups, daycares, and festival queens. Candy and colorful beads flew from every float. There were a couple pirate ships, practicing for Contraband Days, I guess. And naturally, Santa followed behind in a firetruck. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Number 50

Well, it's official. Big bold headlines in today's American Press front page told me I live in the number one least healthy state in the country. We are so close to the bottom in everything including rates of obesity, smoking, cancer, heart disease, infectious diseases, poverty levels, lack of health insurance, high infant mortality rates, and violent crimes, that cumulatively, we're at rock bottom number 50. Sad. From my limited experience here, it's more than grim statistics. It's a pervasive attitude that seems to ignore personal responsibility for one's own health and welfare. Where I come from, it's a law that children under age twelve must wear a bike helmet. And, by and large, kids wear helmets. When we first moved here, we were shocked to see the vast majority of kids not wearing bike helmets when bike riding. Adults often don't wear them either. Bob and I don't care what the neighborhood kids say, our boys wear their helmets. We won't budge on this. Based on the frequent reports of death by motor vehicle accidents, I'd say there's a larger percentage of folks who don't wear seat belts either. Same attitude.

In response to Louisiana being deemed the unhealthiest state in the country, I've tried to come up with a list of reasons why La. could potentially be healthy and beneficial.
  • Despite skin cancer risks, sunshine is good for you, all that vitamin D. Just be sure to wear the sunscreen.
  • Spicy food clears the sinuses. Pass the Tabasco and Tony's!
  • The slower pace of a southern lifestyle means less stress. Is it nap time yet?
  • Warmer weather means longer growing seasons and more locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. I love farmers' markets.
  • What's not to like about fresh seafood.
Okay, that's all I can think of right now. Please comment if you think of more. Reading today's report convinces me even more to live as healthy as I can.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas Cookies

The pumpkin pie is no sooner polished off than I'm thinking about Christmas cookies. You know, holiday baking. It doesn't seem to be too big down here in southwest Louisiana. Last Christmas, I found it odd to go to holiday parties and there would be no cookies. I mention Christmas cookies, and folks look at me quizzically. My apologies to all y'all who enjoy baking Christmas cookies. In Pa., no respectable Christmas party is without the requisite "cookie tray." Pittsburgh women say things like, "Oh, I still have so much baking to do" and "What kind of cookies are you baking this year?" Every year, I'd be in at least one "cookie exchange," sometimes two. They call them cookie swaps here, and my friend Carolyn organized one at our church, bless her heart. And only two other women besides myself signed up. Imagine that! It's way more fun if there are at least ten bakers. In Pa., I never had to make pizzelles because EVERYONE else made them. So I just ate theirs. Besides, I'm not Italian. But I'm really missing them down here. No one here has ever heard of them. And so naturally I can't find a pizzelle iron. They don't sell them here. In case anyone wonders, I've made chocolate chip, peanut butter blossoms, and three kinds of biscotti (my signature Christmas cookie, even though I'm not Italian); cranberry pistachio, anise almond, and chocolate cherry. And I'm done with my baking. And if I can get my hands on a pizzelle iron, I'll be making those next year.