kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

Friday, August 31, 2012

Thoughts on Hurricanes

All this business with Isaac this past week has me thinking about hurricanes. I came here today expecting to post a Flashback Friday dealing with hurricanes, most likely Gustav and Ike, back in 2008. But I discovered I've never written a post on hurricanes. I started this blog in September 2008, a few weeks after Gustav and Ike. And that's the last time Lake Charles really had to deal with a hurricane.

The good thing about hurricanes, if there can be a "good" thing, is that, with today's weather technology, we have plenty of time to get ready for one. Unlike tornados, which often have little or no warning. We track hurricanes through the tropics for a good week or more, watching the spaghetti models and wondering about the odds of the storm coming our way. We have plenty of time to "prepare." We gas up the vehicles in case we need to evacuate. We load up on water and non-perishables, batteries, gas for the generator, toilet paper and such, should we need to "hunker down." If the path of the hurricane appears to be leading to our front door, we board up the windows. But along with those days of preparation can come a lot of anxiety.

I recall the first real hurricane we had to deal with -- Gustav. I remember watching the news and seeing that swirling ball of storm headed straight for us. My stomach was in knots for days. My fear of the unknown was palpable. I'd never felt so at the mercy of nature, no ability whatsoever to control the situation. We evacuated to my sister-in-law's in Houston, though we wouldn't have needed to. I don't think we even lost power. Hurricane Ike came barely a week later. We didn't have the heart to evacuate again. And again, we didn't need to. We didn't so much as lose a roof shingle, let alone power. Having underground lines helps immensely with that.

In 2007, Humberto came along as a Category 1 and basically was not much more than a windy rain event. This past week, Isaac scooted east of Lake Charles and only brought a bit of rain. School is always cancelled in these situations because hurricanes are unpredicatable. You just never know. All in all, in the five years we've lived here, we've been extraordinarily lucky in not having been negatively impacted by hurricanes.

My thoughts and prayers are with all the people in east Louisiana who have had extreme flooding and power outages from this recent hurricane.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Le Chien Cookers -- Southwest Louisiana's Dutch Oven Society

I’ve come to realize there’s a club, group, society, or association for everything. Name a career, hobby, or activity, no matter how obscure, and there will be an organization for it.

I discovered one such unique group of folks who enjoy cooking. But not just cooking. They cook outdoors in cast iron Dutch ovens. And they can cook just about anything in these sturdy black pots.

To my surprise, there’s an International Dutch Oven Society, as well as a National Dutch Oven Society. So naturally, each state has its own Dutch Oven Society, and within that state, there are regional chapters. Here's a link to Louisiana's Dutch Oven Society.

I had the pleasure of attending the monthly gathering of southwest Louisiana’s Dutch Oven Society this past Saturday. The rain stopped just long enough for Bob and I to enjoy their company and their cooking. Dutch Oven Gatherings are called DOGs. The local chapter’s name is Le Chien, which apparently means dog in French. This band of black pot chefs meets monthly at Sam Houston Jones State Park, just down the road from my house. They camp and cook. And eat! Each month there’s a different theme. This month’s theme was Mexican. And can these folks cook! There were beans and burrito dishes smothered in spicy sauce and cheese, tamales and taco casseroles, Spanish rice and salsa. For dessert, we ate flan and some kind of fruit-filled fajitas. All cooked over coals in cast iron pots of all shapes and sizes. They discuss cooking methods, such as what configuration to place the coals for optimum cooking, the number of coals required to achieve a desired temperature, and which company makes the highest quality pot. One gentleman said, “The best pot is whichever pot I’m cooking with.”

The Louisiana state society holds its annual DOG each September, every year at a different park somewhere in the state. This year’s DOG happens to be at Sam Houston Jones State Park on September 22. And they welcome visitors!

See the two ladies seated in the background below. I asked them if they were sisters because I thought they looked alike. Ha, yeah, they’re twins!

Here’s a photo of Sam Houston Jones State Park, lovely even in the rain. Zoom in to see the white bird.


Saturday, August 25, 2012


My car broke down yesterday and there seems to be no car repair places open on the weekend here in Moss Bluff. Andrew had to take Bob's car into town for honor band practice. So I'm homebound and it's been raining steadily all morning. What to do? Here's my Top Ten List of Things to do on a Showery Shut-In Day.

10. Fold the laundry from yesterday.
9. Bake something. That would be a good idea if Bob and I weren't on diets.
8. Sort through my closet and drawers and remove everything I haven't worn in five or more years.Take them to Goodwill. When the car is fixed.
7. Read. Always a good option.
6. Watch a movie. We love Netflix.
5. Work on my writing assignment that is due on Monday. Maybe later this afternoon.
4. Clean the house. Hmmm. . .
3. Scroll through Facebook and see what folks are up to. Folks who have vehicles.
2. Go back to bed. Yes, I like this idea.

And my number one thing to do on this drizzly cooped up day . . .

1. Think about buying a new car.

This photo was taken last summer. On a much windier day. I'm happy to say this little oak tree is standing straight and a bit taller today.

What do you do on a rainy housebound day?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Flashback Friday -- Arts and Crabs Festival

Tomorrow is the annual Arts and Crabs Festival at the Lake Charles Civic Center. This wonderful event supports our Arts and Humanities Council. What would we do without them! We'd be seriously lacking in culture and fun.

I went to this event last year and really enjoyed it. Read about it here. It's a bit crowded, but worth the jostling.

I have a friend who is new to town and loves crab cakes but is having a difficult time finding any in Lake Charles that are more crab than stuffing and not visa versa. Local readers, where is the best place in town to find great crab cakes?

What is your favorite crab dish?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Chicot State Park

I had wanted to go to Chicot State Park ever since a friend of mine raved about it a couple years ago. So when my paddling club planned a trip there yesterday, I jumped at the opportunity. I didn’t see the whole park, but from what I did see, namely a camping area, the boat launch, and several trail heads, it is indeed lovely. The park is home to the Louisiana State Arboretum. There are also cabins and a swimming pool. It’s north of Crowley, east a bit of Pine Prairie, mostly in the middle of nowhere.

Something unique about Chicot, from a paddler’s perspective, is their canoe trail. Unlike a hiking trail through the woods, a canoe trail has no beaten path. You just follow the signs, paddling from one sign to the next.

The lily pads and duck weed grew so thick in some places of this swamp, we struggled to get through it. But the flowers are beautiful.

We meandered slowly, taking it all in. Cypress and tupelo gum trees provided cooling shade and protection from the sun.

We saw several blue herons and oodles of dragonflies. Oddly, we saw no turtles. We saw no alligators or snakes. And surprisingly, no mosquitoes. The greatest threat to a paddler is this . . .

Wasps. And we saw lots of them. Their nests hang from low tree branches. If you touch them, or accidentally knock them with your paddle, they’ll attack. Your only hope is to retreat beneath the water and hide under the boat until they lose interest. I hope I never witness or experience this first hand.

I wonder what happened to this luna moth’s right tail wing?

These roots of a cypress tree are called knees.

I’ve been kayaking a year now, and this was my most enjoyable paddle thus far. Louisiana has so many beautiful places. I look forward to my next visit to Chicot State Park. Have you been there? What were your impressions and experiences?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Flashback Friday -- Taxi Driver

I had to laugh at myself when I came across this post from 2009, where I lamented the role of taxi driver to two busy teenagers, but expressed concern that they would one day have their drivers' licenses, which from a parent's perspective, brings a whole new stress of its own. Because now they both do indeed have their licenses! And I no longer have to schlep them around as much as I used to. It gives me pause to ponder all the different stages of parenthood. I can honestly say I have loved and enjoyed each chapter, but when it has passed, I've been happy to embrace the next phase.

My boys are high school seniors now. I am presently on the brink of the letting go phase. And I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Strong is the New Pretty

I saw a story on ABC's Nightly News this evening that talked about how the women on the U.S. Olympic Team are inspring throngs of young girls to get involved with sports. Swimming, gymnastics, and soccer are obvious choices. Even archery has seen a surge in interest, thanks to the recent popular movies The Hunger Games and Brave. And the report said, "Strong is the new pretty." I like that.
This all got me thinking of my own physical fitness history. As a child, I was never athletic, but I was always active -- especially by the standards of today's wired-in kids. My friends and I were always walking places, riding our bikes, hoola hooping, jumping rope, somersaulting and tumbling through the backyard. My parents often took us to the local pool. Back then, I was brave enough to jump off the high dive -- I'd never do that today.

I thought about gym class through the years. In elementary school, I remember having to play kickball, softball, and dodgeball. Oh, how I hated dodgeball. And I doubt I ever made contact with a softball. I've never been one to enjoy playing organized sports. I've never been on a "team" of any kind. The recess games such as tag and red rover were more to my liking. In my late elementary years, our school had a track meet of sorts with other schools in the district. Somehow, I suppose because I couldn't do anything else, I ended up in the "kick for accuracy" event. There I was, running up to a ball, kicking it towards a net -- and I'd never even heard of soccer. I was terrible at this event. But somehow, I came home with a white ribbon. I don't remember what place that was. Fifth or sixth? And maybe there were only six kids participating.

And then there were those blasted President's Physical Fitness Tests. The bane of my gym class experience through junior high. I have always been, and still am, a terrible runner. Slow, awkward . . .ugh. And chin ups? I recall practicing these with my girlfriends on a low pine tree branch in my yard.

In high school, two things happened. I had back surgery, which meant I was, from that point on, exempt from gym class. And I discovered boys. Which meant I was no longer interested in bike riding. Unless it was to some boy's house. But it was also around this time that my beautiful mother discovered Elaine Powers. And she took me with her. That was interesting. Does anyone remember those vibrating belts that supposedly jiggled the fat away? Yeah right, if only it could be that easy.

About the only exercise I got in college was walking to and from class -- and it was a really small campus. And treking up to "The Hill," because that's where all the parties were.

As a young adult, most of my physical activities depended on who I was dating at the time. One boyfriend loved to golf. He golfed all the time. And he said I couldn't come because I didn't have clubs. So, I bought myself some clubs. Ha! I still enjoy golfing. I just stink at it. Then the next guy was a bodybuilder. He belonged to the YMCA. So, I joined too. I don't think that relationship lasted long. But my enthusiasm for belonging to and going to "the gym" has endured. The next man in my life was seriously into bike riding. And I knew what I had to do if I wanted to spend any appreciable time with him. I bought a bike! And then I married him. Bob has since given up bike riding. But I still love it.

After we were married, we joined Bally's. It was near my workplace, and I went there regularly for nearly fourteen years. This was also in the age of VCRs, and I had several videos I would work out to, if I didn't feel like driving to the gym.

When we first moved to Louisiana, it took me a while to find a gym I liked. In the meantime, I rode my bike, rollerbladed through the neighborhood, and walked. Then I discovered Dynamic Dimensions. I love that place! Really awesome group fitness classes.

As all my regular readers know, my latest physical activity is kayaking. And that interest came purely from within myself. I followed no one there. Only my heart.

I still don't consider myself athletic. But I couldn't live without exercising. I need to move! "Our bodies were designed for motion," to quote Leslie Sansome on one of her workout videos. And when I look around at my friends at the gym, I wholeheartedly agree with ABC News. Strong is indeed the new pretty.

This photo was taken yesterday at Group Step class at Dynamic Dimensions. Pretty, huh.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Flashback Friday -- Indian Bayou

Friday nearly slipped past without a Flashback. Almost, but not quite.
Last evening, my friend Tracy and I paddled Indian Bayou. She's in my boat here, just getting her feet wet, so to speak. The blue boat, in case you are interested, belongs to another friend of mine and is for sale.

Way back in 2008, long before I got a kayak, a good friend of mine, railroad conductor and fellow writer Rodney Hennigan, introduced Bob and I to this lovely body of water not far from our home. Read about that enchanting excursion here. And do check out Rodney's website, too. He wrote and published a sweet little book called My Father's Gift.