Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

French Quarter -- New Orleans

We recently spent a day in New Orleans, exploring the French Quarter. I needed to interview a horse trainer in east Louisiana, and the boys had never been to the Big Easy, so we decided to make a trip of it.

Bob and I had been to New Orleans nearly twenty years ago. The French Quarter looks the same, no lingering scars from Katrina that we could see. I love the architecture, the history, the sights, the sounds. Not so much the smells, but I can get past that.

Jackson Square. Also here on the Square is the Louisiana State Museum. This museum is currently all about the history of Mardi Gras, which happens to begin soon, Jan. 6th.

What's a trip to New Orleans without cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe du Monde. Definitely worth waiting in line for.

We spent all day strolling and exploring the narrow streets of the French Quarter. My favorite is Royal Street, with its art galleries, antique shops, jewelry stores, hidden courtyards, colorful street musicians and entertaining magicians.

Here's an example of Christmas in the Quarter. Note the "Saints Country" sign. Saints fans may not be quite as fanatical as Steelers fans, but they've certainly got the fever this year.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

San Francisco -- Day 2

Bob and I got an early start this morning -- not hard to do when your mind is in central time and your body is in pacific time -- and headed down Highway 1 south. We took our time, stopping whenever something caught our fancy. We strolled beaches strewn with driftwood, kelp, and tidal pools. This is the lighthouse at Pigeon Point.

We visited Swanton Berry Farm. Cool place. Bought some blackberry jam.

We meandered up, down and over the mountains behind the coast near Davenport and found our way to Big Basin State Park, another amazing redwood forest. I'd nearly forgotten the thrill of hills, long and steep, twists and turns, switchbacks and zigzags. Bonine is my new best friend. We've had great weather, meaning it's been sunny and no rain. But it's cool, probably low 50s during the day, only 39 degrees when we hiked through the redwoods this morning.
We drove on to Santa Cruz, a charming seaside town, had lunch at a seafood restaurant on the wharf. Looks like the sea lions were taking a post-lunch nap.

Driving back to San Francisco, we watched the sun set over the Pacific. Early Thursday morning, we fly back to Houston, spend Christmas Eve with Bob's sisters and family, and drive back to Lake Charles late that night. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

San Francisco Day 1

Golden Gate Bridge.



Picking up a snack along the road to Muir Woods.
Muir Woods is a redwood forest. Coastal redwoods are the tallest trees in the world. Some of the trees here are over 1,000 years old! Is there anything more majestic and respectable than a towering ancient tree, nobly withstanding the tests of time?




After Muir Woods, we drove north on Hwy 1, up the Pacific coast.

We ended the day at Fisherman's Wharf, dinner at Bubba Gump's Shrimp restaurant. Tomorrow, we explore south on Hwy 1.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

In Flight Entertainment

How do you pass the time on a long airplane ride? Yesterday, I accompanied my husband on a business trip to San Francisco. The 35 minute flight from Lake Charles to Houston was easy. Read the newspaper and I'm there. But from Houston to the Bay Area -- 4.5 hours -- I had to get a bit creative. I'm not much of a sitter. For some reason, Bob and I weren't even sitting next to each other, so I had no one to lean my head against or talk to. I generally don't talk to strangers. Though the couple sitting next to me made a little friendly conversation.

I start out closing my eyes and resting. But I've never been able to sleep on a plane. The plane's movie system is out of order. I re-peruse the newspaper, attempt the crossword -- always fun in pen. I complete all but one square, and it's a tennis question. Where's my guy when I need him. He'd know the answer. Then the sudoku -- challenging if not impossible in pen. I don't finish. Soon the snack and beverage carts rattle down the aisle. I request the same drink I always do -- club soda with lemon. I never drink this anywhere else, but always on a plane. Always have. And I drink it reeaallly slow in an attempt to NOT have to pass the time using the aircraft lavatory. Yuck. I'm not even hungry, but I eat the snack anyway -- a turkey dog wrapped in bread -- why don't they just call it a kolache -- and a Twix bar. Eating helps pass the time.

Three more hours to go. I've exhausted the paper and pick up my book. After several minutes of reading, I start to feel a bit airsick. So I'm back to closing my eyes and resting. The drink cart passes through again and I haven't finished my first can yet. I decline.

Two more hours. I'll never make it. So I climb over the couple next to me, walk to the back of the plane, and wait in the long lav line. (Sip sloooower) After squeezing past way too many people on the return down the aisle to my seat, I pick up the book again and get about half of it read.

The highlight of the flight was at twilight, watching out the window, the plane skimming over an endless baby blue blanket of clouds, then descending through to the underside and over the twinkling lights of San Francisco. One can see the most amazing pictures from the sky.

How do you pass the time on a plane?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ready for Christmas?

"Are you ready for Christmas?" I've been hearing that question a lot lately. And I can say, comfortably, No, I am not. I'm not done shopping, haven't begun wrapping, my cards are not out yet, I decorated my house minimally, and baked even less. And this year, I am so okay with that. I made a decision early in the season that I would not stress over holiday duties and details, but instead that I would focus on Advent, and all that implies. Waiting. Anticipation. Expectation. New birth. I'm relaxed. Peaceful. And looking forward to Christmas.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fog, Frost, and Festivities

It did snow last night, but if there was even a skift of accumulation through the night, by early morning, all that remained were surreal layers of fog and frost, held in place by a heavy chill even the bright sun struggled to chase away.

The boys were busy today. Andrew (center left, second from bottom) marched with Sam Houston High's Pride and Spirit Band in the annual Lake Charles Christmas parade. Eric, dressed scarily as the Beast (from Beauty and the Beast) spent the day with his theater group doing "character dining" -- think Disney World without the castle.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Snow in the Forecast!

My Yankee friends would get a kick out of the hub bub here right now. It might snow two inches tonight! Truly, this is big news. Assuming it will snow, it will break the record for the earliest snowfall. And didn't it just snow once last year? It's practically unheard of for it to snow two years in a row. Some events have been cancelled. School let out at noon today, in anticipation of icy roads this afternoon. Folks part and say, "Drive safe!" To which I eavesdropped a reply, "I know, I'm scared to death." But honestly, the concern is not unwarranted. There are people here who have never driven on snowy icy roads. Most everyone's tires are bald. There's no such thing as a salt or cinder truck. Or a snowplow. Cause they (normally) aren't needed. Though I did hear on the news that they'll put "chemicals" on the bridges if it gets bad. If a road becomes icy, they simply close it. And tell people to stay home. Sounds good to me. We're putting our Christmas tree up tonight. Maybe a little fire in the fireplace. Hot cocoa. Christmas music. And maybe I'll have some "winter" pictures for you tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pizzelles

I spent this rainy dreary chilly afternoon listening to my Josh Groban Christmas CD and making pizzelles. No one around here has ever heard of them, so if I'm going to eat this Pittsburgh Christmas cookie tradition, I have to make them myself. I do get a kick out of telling Louisianians about them. First, they can't figure out the word. I say, "pizzelles." They say, "What?" I say, "pit-cells, you know, like pizza," even though the only similarity is that they are round and flat. Then when I say I make them in a waffle-like iron and they're usually anise flavored, they really look at me quizzically. Anyway, I'm so glad Mom and Tom bought me the pizzelle-maker last year for Christmas. They're somewhat time and labor-intensive to make. Unlike cookies on a sheet that you pop in the oven and sit back and wait for 10-12 minutes, (unless you want to start the dishes) with pizzelles, you can only make two at a time. And you have to stand there and watch the clock for 50 seconds. Then put in the next two scoops of batter. But they're worth it. As you can see, I need a little work on my technique. If any of my Italian friends back home know the trick to getting them centered, even, and uniform, please let me know.