kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene barrels up the East Coast as I write. All my friends who live there are on my heart. Here on the Gulf Coast, the threat of hurricanes is part of the fabric of life. During hurricane season – June 1 to November 30 – the weatherman mentions “the tropics” in each and every newscast. Even if there’s not a wave or wisp of wind out in the Gulf, he might say, “It’s quiet today out in the tropics.” And they’ll show the radar to prove it. We get flyers in the mail instructing and encouraging us to be prepared. Organizations host hurricane preparedness seminars. We can sign up for weather alerts on our cell phones or buy special weather radios. It’s everywhere. A part of life.

But that doesn’t make a direct threat any less scary or stressful. We moved here in 2007, so we didn’t experience Hurricane Rita in 2005. (Katrina hit New Orleans – other side of the state. Rita slammed into southwest Louisiana a few weeks later.) Even though six years have passed, local folks still shudder at the mention of Rita’s name. (Read Rita anniversary post here.) I’ve naturally absorbed some of that dread. Hurricanes Gustav and Ike came back to back in the fall of 2008. I remember well the fear, like carrying a heavy weight of impending doom in my chest, as we boarded up, packed up (we evacuated for Gustav) or stocked up and hunkered down (staying put for Ike). So much anxiety and uncertainty. My eyes were glued to the TV, watching the angry red swirl inching closer and closer. I recall praying every waking moment, reading the Psalms for comfort.

I looked in my journal from those dates and found this passage from Isaiah.

Isaiah 41:10,13 Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Take care, East Coast readers. May God’s love and power be a shield around you.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Arts and Crabs

Imagine a festival which combines three of my very favorite things – food, art, and music. Such was the event yesterday at the Lake Charles Civic Center, the second annual Arts and Crabs fest. There were numerous jewelry makers – love perusing their wares. A considerable amount of photography vendors – they’re all terrific. And some fantastic fine artists. One of my favorite local watercolorists was there – Sue Zimmerman! I’m giddy as a groupie around her, but her paintings are so incredible! Look at that painting in the background. Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE roseate spoonbills.

Parris Duhon painted the poster at top.

We listened to some excellent Cajun music. On the left, (below) is Chris Miller, who, incidentally, is choir director extraordinaire at my church, First Presbyterian of Lake Charles.
And the food! Ten restaurants. Ten different crab dishes. Ten accompanying flavors of Abita beer. I was so busy sampling and sipping, I forgot to take photos of the food! We savored crab etoufee, crab cakes, crab-stuffed jalapenos, crab-stuffed mushrooms, crab au gratin, crab and avocado salad, crab gazpacho, creamy pasta and crab, crab bisque, and crab ceviche. Talk about passing a good time! Just one suggestion to the planners . . . more tables! There was seating for about a tenth or less of the folks there. It wasn’t easy balancing a cardboard tray piled high with crab dishes and 10 shot glasses of beer samples while eating at the same time. But I managed. When we left, there was still a very long line snaking around the mezzanine. I hope the folks at the end of the queue got food.

All the dishes were delicious, but if I had to choose a personal best of show, I really liked the crab ceviche. It had a strong lime flavor that went well with the crab. It was prepared by Harlequin Steaks and Seafood, one of my favorite restaurants in town. What’s your favorite crab dish?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Frog Blog

I love frogs, always have. They're so cute. I found this little guy on our back patio this evening.

I have fond memories of frogs. When I was a kid, both sets of grandparents lived in the country and had ponds on their property. Pretty little green frogs, much like the one above, would line the banks, hiding in the timothy grass and cat tails. They’d see me coming and, one by one, hop, hop, hop into the mucky brown mud and leaves on the pond bottom. But I was a whiz at catching frogs. I’d cup one in my hands and think he was my new best friend. I’d put him in a clear plastic cup, add some grass and twigs, and think I’d made the best frog house ever, like I was doing him a favor. I’d name him, usually Hoppy, or something equally original, and carry him around with me everywhere. I’d swat flies and toss them into the cup – I can’t remember if the frogs ate these dead flies. After a few days, I’d start to imagine he was homesick, that he missed his family, so I’d take him back to the pond and set him free. Then I’d catch another one.

Several years ago, when the boys were toddlers, we had a couple tree frogs and fire-bellied toads in an aquarium. They ate crickets. I felt like a kid again watching them. Once we tried to feed them a lady bug. That didn’t go over so well. “Blech,” said the frog who struggled to get it off his sticky tongue.

Speaking of tadpoles, we took Eric back to school today and Andrew starts tomorrow. Junior year here already.

What was your favorite critter when you were a kid?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt

Not since the glory days of TCBY have I been so excited about a frozen confection. A bit over a month ago, Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt opened its doors over in Sulphur. It’s not on my way to anywhere I go. Maybe that’s a good thing. But I don’t mind making a trek every now and then. It’s my new favorite culinary destination.

Now I know to all you readers from bigger or more cosmopolitan cities, Orange Leaf and other similar frozen yogurt chains – Pinkberry, Red Mango – are not a new concept. But here in Lake Charles, well, we often lag behind current trends. We catch up eventually. Me, personally, I’ve been waiting for this a long time.

Back in the 80’s, TCBY was all the rage. A novelty at the time. I worked and attended grad school (Pitt) in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh and went to TCBY nearly every day. Couldn’t get enough of the stuff. All I can say is, frozen yogurt has come a long way.

For anyone not familiar with self-serve fro-yo (Being that we live in southwest Louisiana, we can call it Freaux Yeaux) here’s the deal. You walk into a colorful cheery store front and are warmly greeted by a young kid working his way through college.

You choose a cup size – larger or largest (the Sulphur store conveniently runs out of the smaller of the two regularly. These folks know marketing.)

Then you face a wall of 16 yogurt flavors. And of course you can mix and match. A daunting decision-making process. Everything is so tempting. They offer samples.

Next you deliberate over a smorgasbord of toppings. Hmm, more decisions.

And then you pay by the ounce. Guess which one was mine.

I think we need one of these places in Lake Charles. How about you? Do you have a favorite neighborhood frozen yogurt shop? Tell me about your experience(s).