kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

Saturday, January 30, 2010

King Cake

Eric mentioned the other day that he hasn't had any King Cake yet this Mardis Gras season. King Cakes are only sold during Mardi Gras (this year Jan. 6-Feb. 16) so one has a limited time frame in which to eat them. I picked one up in the grocery store yesterday. Sometimes they're really good, sometimes, eh, not so much. They're not cake-like at all, more like a giant danish, and they come in all flavors; strawberry, blueberry, apple, lemon, etc. Our favorites are cream cheese and bavarian creme. The fruit ones are too goopy and overly sweet. The one I bought yesterday, above, is bavarian creme and very fresh. Excellent. It's almost gone already.

Here's a little history on the King Cake. It is believed to have originated in 12th century France. They honor the three kings or wise men. The round shape symbolizes their circular route. Purple, green, and gold, traditional Mardi Gras colors, represent justice, faith, and power, respectively. I've also seen many black and gold King Cakes this season. Sorry, no, not Steelers colors this year. We're celebrating the Saints! Anyway, historically, a bean, pea, or coin was hidden inside the cake. The person who found the hidden object was declared King for the day or granted good luck for the year. Today, a tiny plastic baby, representing baby Jesus, might be hidden. To prevent choking in small children, they're usually sold with the cake, but not inside, the hiding left to the discretion of the buyer. Bon appetit!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Update on Eric's Recovery

The boys were off school today for a teacher inservice day. I took Eric for a check-up with Dr. Thompson, his pulmonologist here in Lake Charles. Eric had a pulmonary function test and chest x-ray. Doc said his x-ray looks about the same as last October, but Eric continues to show improvement in his pulmonary function. Last July, the amount of air he could blow out in one breath was 37% (of what he should be able to do based on his age and height). Today, it was 62%. How fast he could blow that breath out was 70% in July; now it's 94%. And his oxygen saturation, the SpO2, that number I obsessed over those months in ICU, was 100%. "You're doing great, man!" Dr. Thompson said. He predicts Eric will continue to improve over the next several years.

In December, Eric decided it was time to play his trumpet again. Bob and I were nearly moved to tears upon hearing those first few notes. Hard to believe he hadn't played in over ten months. He sounded so good, almost like he'd never stopped. We got him started with lessons to help him catch up. A couple weeks ago, he re-joined the school band, and has already moved up into second chair.

Eric stars in the Children's Theatre Company performance of Pinocchio Feb. 5-7. www.childrenstheatre.cc

Yes, he's doing great.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Some Favorite Things

Sam Houston High Band Boosters had a BBQ and bake sale today. I made this cake for the fund raiser. The Gum Drop Cake was my very favorite childhood birthday cake. I might have been five or six years old when Mom made it. I thought the gum drops looked like jewels on a princess crown. My birthday is coming up in a couple weeks, and I felt nostalgic. Good thing I didn’t aspire to be a professional cake decorator. I’m terrible! Icing oozed down the sides before I even got it to the school this morning. I’d be surprised if anyone buys it!

Eric and Andrew left on an overnight trip with their youth group yesterday afternoon for a Christian rock concert in Beaumont called Hot Hearts. Sounds quite Valentiney, but it’s only January. Without kids for the night, Bob and I enjoyed an evening out. We ate dinner at my favorite Lake Charles restaurant, DeAngelo’s. And their special was my favorite fish – grouper. So good.

What are some of your favorites?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Natchitoches and the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts

We awoke before 5:00 a.m. this morning and got on Rt. 171 north. Thick fog shrouded the darkness of pre-dawn. Until today, I'd never been farther north in Louisiana than DeRidder. We ambled through small towns, Rosepine, Leesville, Fort Polk, Anacoco, Many (manny), names familiar to me only from watching local weather forecasts. They call this "hill country" and indeed, there are rolling hills, very different from parishes closer to the coast.

It was Exploration Day at the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts (LSMSA). Eric is considering attending this high school. The biggest question is whether he should start there his sophomore or junior year. LSMSA is a public state high school nestled against Northwestern State University in the charming little town of Natchitoches, pronounced (trust me) NACK-a-dish. Being a public school, there's no tuition, but we'd pay room and board. Eric is a perfect candidate for LSMSA; self-motivated, mature, independent, bright, social. Both academically and extra-curricularly (is that a word?), LSMSA has so much more to offer a kid like Eric than a traditional public high school. He'd be challenged academically, and also have outlets for his trumpet, voice, and acting talents. It's truly more like college, just a few years earlier. And the fact that it's like college is also the biggest drawback. It's a bit over two hours drive away. He'd live in a dormitory. They have one three-day weekend a month to come home, plus the usual holiday breaks. Of course, where else but in Louisiana do you get a week off for Mardi Gras? But are Bob, Andrew, and I ready to send Eric out into the world?

Natchitoches is famous for its meat pies. They're shaped like large pierogies, made of pastry dough and filled with seasoned meat. In Mexico, they'd be called empanadas. We picked up a few to go for the ride home. Sorry, no photos. I forgot my camera this morning.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Red Planet Noir

I recently read a great book, Red Planet Noir, by D. B. Grady. This debut novel intersects mystery and murder with science fiction. Mike Sheppard, a private detective from New Orleans, travels to Mars to solve a murder and nearly is murdered himself. You can order Red Planet Noir on amazon.com.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Cold Day?

While my friends in southwest Pennsylvania and other points north have been having snow days or delays, we in Calcasieu Parish, LA had a "cold day" today. Yes, the kids were off school. Usually only happens for hurricanes. The temperature dipped down somewhere in the 20s last night. Today it is hovering around 30. Yes, it is cold. The superintendent of the school district based his decision on the thousands of kids in the area who either walk to school or wait outside for buses. 20 degrees might not be an extremely dangerous temperature, except that some folks here just won't dress for the weather in winter. I've witnessed it myself. It might be in the 30s or 40s, and I see kids walking home from school in shorts and short sleeves. No jacket. So he has a point. I don't know if they don't own coats. If they're not in the habit. Or if they just don't get cold. Fortunately, the forecast says it will be back to 60 by next Thursday.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Today, January 6th, has a lot of names . . . Twelfth Night, first day of Mardi Gras season, Joan of Arc's birthday. But my favorite is Epiphany. Say it out loud. It's fun, the way the word tangles in your mouth. In church, we recognize Epiphany with the commemorization of the Magi as the first time God reveals Jesus to the world as His Son. But I enjoy Webster's common definition of epiphany -- a sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something, an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking, an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure, a revealing scene or moment.

I want one of those, don't you? Our culture has other common expressions for epiphany -- an ah-ha moment, a breakthrough, bingo, a revelation, and of course the very visual lightbulb turning on over one's head. Can you think of any others? I could use a few epiphanies right now.

This past Sunday, Pastor Fred instructed us to be on the lookout for "God surprises." Don't miss them. Watch closely. You might find God surprises anywhere, anytime, in unexpected places.

Happy Epiphany!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Mystery of Mardi Gras

Dear Amy in Pittsburgh,

Mardi Gras . . . where to begin. I, too, prior to moving to Louisiana, thought Mardi Gras was a parade in New Orleans, the night before Lent starts. But oh, no. SO no. Mardi Gras is a celebration lasting several weeks. The festivities always start on Jan. 6th and end the night before Lent starts, which is variable, this year February 16th. These several weeks are filled with various assorted merriments; parades, parties, costumes, gumbo cook-offs, chicken runs (from what I can tell, a chicken is let loose, and a bunch of kids try to catch it. ??? I think this is mostly in rural parts of LA.), trail rides (on horseback), King Cakes, beads, etc. Folks decorate their houses in the traditional Mardi Gras colors; purple, gold and green. And it's not just in New Orleans. It's the whole state! Louisiana is the only state in the country where Mardi Gras is an official holiday. No mail, the banks are closed, the kids are off TWO days of school. It's nuts. But it is interesting. I still haven't figured the whole thing out, but I can tell you, it's bigger than Christmas. I wrote a blog or two on Mardi Gras with some photos last year around this time, if you want to look in the archives.

Thanks so much for following the blog. And thank you for all your prayers for my family last year. God heard every one of them.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Icicle Bicycle Ride . . . Louisiana Style

In Pittsburgh, we belonged to a bicycling club called the Western Pennsylvania Wheelmen. Every year on New Year's Day, the WPW would have an "Icicle Bicycle Ride." No matter the weather, no matter how cold or snowy, they'd bundle up early in the morning and ride through the city, maybe 30 miles or so, and stop somewhere for coffee or hot chocolate afterwards. Bob took this ride several times. Me, never. Even though I grew up and lived my whole life in the north, I never appreciated winter.
We thought it would be fun for the family to take our own Louisiana-style icicle bicycle ride today. Hey, it's been chilly here! And quite blustery today. We had the sense to wait till it "warmed up" to around 50 degrees. Then we bundled up, truly, and took off. Didn't go that far or very fast, but it felt great to be out in the sunshine.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy, active New Year!