Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Friday, February 25, 2011

Planting, Growing, Reaping

I’ve lived here almost four years now, and I’m still figuring out how to garden in southwest Louisiana. At first, I went to farmers’ markets and marveled at how early local fresh produce would appear on the stands. And that’s the key . . . start early. Last year I planted a couple tomato plants – late spring – about the time everyone else was already eating theirs. My plants grew, but never produced a single tomato. Once it gets hot, they can’t pollenate. So this past week (is February early enough?), I planted two tomato plants – one best boy and one grape tomato – and two red pepper plants. I bought some lettuce and spinach seeds, but after I read the package, I learned I should have planted them late fall/early winter and could have been harvesting greens the past several months. I did plant radishes a couple months ago, and have had a few mature. I also planted several broccoli plants and they’re producing more than we can eat!

This past late fall/early winter, I planted daffodil and iris bulbs, hoping for lovely spring flowers. But even though we technically had a "cold" winter, it was warm enough that that the bulbs sent up shoots immediately, though it was too cold for them to actually bloom. Instead of spring flowers, I have stringy dying stalks in the beds with no hope of blooms.

I planted a strawberry plant early last summer, obviously too late to grow any berries. The plant survived a hot summer and a cold winter, but it has yet to bloom. Not sure what’s up with that. We’ve got some blueberry bushes in the back, but the birds always get the berries before they ripen enough for us. And we planted a satsuma tree (Louisiana clementine) a couple years ago that seems to be more interested in staying a baby than growing up and producing fruit.

I’ve planted several herbs. Last year, the basil grew fantastic, more like a shrub than a small plant. But chives withered and died. We’ll see how I do this year with cilantro, cat nip, and again, chives and basil.

I’m learning what flowers grow well and when. Pansies are pretty all winter; snapdragons, not so much. Just today, I saw the first red bud tree in bloom. They take my breath away. Soon the azaleas will spread vivid fuchsia, red, and orange across the landscape. Not much survives the heat of summer except crepe myrtle, oleander, zinnias.

Gardening here, no doubt, will be an ongoing adventure. High on my list of things to do this summer . . . learn to compost.

What grows in your garden?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lake Charles Art Scene on a Saturday Morning

Andrew has an interest in photography, so today we made a trip to Old City Hall in Lake Charles to see Fragile Nature, a traveling exhibit by National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore. Sartore hopes his exquisite up-close shots of animals and their habitats will not only entertain but bring awareness to environmental issues. The show runs through April 23rd.

Up on the third floor we found another delightful exhibit, Fairy Tale Art -- Illustrations from Children's Books. (Through March 26) Naturally, as a lover and wish-I-could author of picture books, I adored this show, featuring selected works of eight well-known illustrators. My personal favorite is Jane Dyer. She's the illustrator of my personal favorite picture book, Time For Bed, written by Mem Fox. The boys and I wore that one out when they were toddlers.

For a little lagniappe, we went to Frazier Library at McNeese University, where there's currently an exhibit by several local artists including one of my favorite local artists, Imogene Dewey. Art is alive and well in Lake Charles -- there's always something to see or do. And the cool thing is, these events are usually free!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Beaumont, Texas

Had to go to Beaumont, Texas today to get a new part for Eric’s MacBook. *TIP for Lake Charles area businessmen/women who are looking for a new venture . . . open an Apple Store! You’d have a monopoly on the market. Mac users should not have to drive an hour for computer service. Apple Stores are chic, sleek, contemporary, and inviting, if you’re the geeky techie type.

Like always, we try to morph a mundane trip into an excursion by patronizing a few fun establishments. While waiting for the computer repair, we got a bite to eat at (new to us) Geo Burrito, which is remarkably similar to a family favorite here in Lake Charles, Izzo’s Illegal Burrito, except there aren’t as many TVs at Geo’s. Essentially, it’s like a Mexican Subway. Very good. Eric had a burrito, Andrew ordered fully-loaded nachos, and I enjoyed assorted tacos.


For dessert, we went next door to Rao’s Bakery. Look at these beautiful pastries!

No, we didn’t buy pastries. We were there for the gelato. They offer the most incredible selection; raspberry, mixed berry, pear, lemon, spiced chocolate, coconut, mango, red velvet cake, tiramisu, cappuccino, mocha (is there really a difference?) just to name maybe half of the flavors. It’s so hard to choose just one. Thankfully they allow samples.

Why we wanted ice cream in this frigid weather, I don’t know. Because it’s delicious! I countered the cold with a cup of hot coffee. Here’s me sporting my new Polamalu t-shirt Mom and Tom got me for my birthday. Go Steelers!
I had to plead for the boys to pose on the patio with “the Blues Brothers.” They finally consented. They were cold. And I wouldn’t unlock the car until they did.