kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sailboat Racing on Lake Charles

Today was a beautiful day for a race around the lake.
We were on the water, but didn’t participate in the race. Only the smaller faster catamarans and flying scots raced. But we had a bird’s eye view.
On your mark . . .
get set . . .
The rescue boat had to be rescued. His motor died, so we towed him in.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Palm Sunday Tour of Homes

I’ve always loved looking at houses. I enjoy examining various architectural styles. I like seeing all the different ways people decorate their homes -- the art work they choose, the furniture, the color schemes. For many years in my 20s and 30s, I was a part time home care respiratory therapist, in addition to the hospital work. My favorite part of the job was getting to go into peoples’ homes. Some patients were so proud of their homes, they’d give me a tour. Other houses, I couldn’t wait to get out of – you know the type. I love looking at houses so much, for a short time, I considered becoming a real estate agent, so I could see homes and earn income at the same time. But then I decided the math involved was more than I cared for.
Anyway, the 38th annual Palm Sunday Tour of Homes here in Lake Charles last weekend seemed an obvious choice of entertainment for me. Each year, the Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society picks a certain historic part of town and features 5-6 homes from that neighborhood. All I can say is, these homeowners who volunteer to open their homes to the public like that are brave souls.

I’ve heard of this home tour for several years, but until this year, there was always some reason or another I couldn’t attend. So I was very excited to be able to go this year. Tickets are a reasonable ten dollars. And this year, exclusive lakefront properties on desirable Shell Beach Dr. were featured. Who wouldn’t want to see the inside of some of these houses?
Obviously, everyone wanted to see them! I wasn’t expecting the throngs of people, all very orderly and patient. It was like an amusement park where you wait in line an hour for a 3-minute ride. Out of curiosity, I would like to know how many hundreds of people attended this event. If anyone knows, please tell me. I did read on their website, it was an "unprecedented number."

So while I do love touring fabulous homes, I’m not so fond of crowds. Or long lines. But I put that bit about me aside and truly enjoyed seeing each of the five houses.
This place, The Walker House, was amazing.

But my favorite was The Boyer House. Not sure why I didn’t get photos. It was the last place we looked at, and I was quite tired by that point, and I guess I forgot about my camera. But you can see a photo of it, and many more photos of the tour, on the Preservation Society’s website here.
Lake Charles readers, did you attend this home tour? What was your  impression?

Friday, March 22, 2013

I'm a Ballet Buff

Who knew? Prior to a few years ago, I’d never given much thought to the art and discipline of ballet. I’ve never been a dancer, and though I’ve always enjoyed watching dance, the extent of my experience with ballet consisted of an occasional trip to the Benedum at Christmastime to see the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre perform The Nutcracker. Or if by chance my ballet-loving friend Beth, who always had a season subscription to PBT, would take me along.
That all changed three years ago when my friend and fellow writer Luke, whose daughters are both ballerinas, invited me to a matinee performance by the Lake Charles Civic Ballet (LCCB). Unlike at the Benedum, where, invariably, I’d be sitting near the back and the dancers appeared as large ants onstage, at the Rosa Hart Theatre there’s no such thing as a bad seat. By sitting close to the stage, I can see every expression on the dancers’ animated faces. And I’ve discovered that these dancers are not only dancing: they are acting.

This was profoundly evident last weekend when my friend Mischelle and I attended LCCB’s spring performance, called Assembl√© 2013. Assembl√© is a French word (as well as a ballet term) meaning to come together. The show was appropriately named because LCCB’s goal was (and will continue to be) to bring together many various forms of art into one exciting show. Mission accomplished. I can’t recall a time when I have been so thoroughly entertained by such a variety of sights and sounds in one performance. The show combined a myriad of dance styles, musical genres with onstage musicians, and visual arts. I laughed. I cried. I said WOW!! a gazillion times. The show included classical ballet, Broadway, and original LCCB pieces. For the complete story, read my article in this recent Jambalaya News issue here.
Mischelle and I on the “red carpet,” eagerly anticipating the show.

From Graduation Ball. 

West Side Story.

In Trepak, Death is a beautiful seductress.

In The Fable, an original LCCB piece, a group of blind men each experience an elephant in different ways – the ears, trunk, tusks, skin. “Only through multiple perspectives do we understand the truth,” said Lady Holly Hathaway Kaough, artistic director of LCCB.

LCCB’s next performance is May 19, 2013. If you live in southwest Louisiana, do yourself a favor and don’t miss it! And if you aren’t one already, you’ll become a ballet buff like me.
Photos used courtesy of Danley Romero of Romero and Romero Photography and with permission by the Lake Charles Civic Ballet.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Quilt Show

I went to a quilt show in Lake Charles today. It’s sponsored by a quilt guild in town called the Calcasieu Cut-Ups. You can read more about this event here.
I’ve been a quilter since 1986. I doubt many of my friends in Louisiana know that about me. I’ve only made one quilt since moving here, and that was four years ago, when my nephew was born. I’m not sure why I got out of the habit. It likely has something to do with my eyesight and the fact that I can no longer see up close without reading glasses. But after viewing the fabulous quilts on display today at the show, I’m motivated to get started again. This was one of my favorites. I love the bright colors! And the polka dots are fun.

In 1986, my sister was pregnant with my first niece, Loren. I asked my best friend Beth, who is an amazing quilter, to help me make a baby quilt for the pending birth. I thought I’d only make that one quilt. I hadn’t planned on becoming a quilter. But after the process of making that first quilt, I was hooked. Indeed, quilting is a process, and I think that’s what I love about it. There are so many steps, each one unique. The many steps keep me from getting bored. After formulating an idea, you shop for fabric. I love this step. I love browsing through fabric shops. So many colors, patterns, and textures! I especially love the batik prints. They’re like beautiful watercolor paintings.

Then you choose a design or pattern. You trace, cut, and sew (I sew the pieces together and quilt by hand. It takes an average of about three months working diligently to complete a quilt; longer if the quilt is larger). Once the top is complete, you sandwich the quilt back, batting, and top, and begin quilting. Finally, you sew on the binding for the finished work of art.
Yes . . . art. And that’s something else I love about quilting. For someone like me who can’t draw or paint, quilting is a satisfying artistic outlet. Who can say this isn’t art?


If my friend Melissa quilted, she’d make this one. 

Over the years, I’ve made numerous quilts. I honestly have no idea how many. Most of them I gave away as gifts. Here’s a collage of a few quilts I’ve made.

My favorite quilt is this one my mom made for me. See my boys?

Mom wrote this on the back of the quilt.

In addition to quilts, there were several vendors at the show. I bought some fabric and came home with lots of ideas. I have two projects planned, but I can’t say what they are right now. It’s a surprise!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Welsh, Louisiana

Between Lake Charles and Jennings along the I-10 corridor lies a sleepy little hamlet called Welsh. With a population of 3,000, this epitome of a small town has been on my to-see list for several years. When I discovered that a friend’s sister owns a restaurant there called Cajun Tales (it’s promoted on a local television station and yes, advertising works) a group of us decided to make a day of it. Or, at least a couple hours, as is the case in a town as small as Welsh.  But there are enough attractions there to make it worth the trip.
Cajun Tales specializes in Louisiana seafood fare. The day’s plate lunch special was fried shrimp with french fries, hush puppy, side salad and some of the best bread pudding I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. The fried mushrooms received rave reviews. Their fried alligator was also good. Another house specialty is the crawfish pie. I’d like to return someday to try it. Visit them online here.

After lunch, we set off to explore the town. We found a few shops to browse. There’s a neat, clean, spacious second-hand shop. Grandma’s Garden sells flowers, gifts and chocolates. The Farmer’s Wife sells gifts and specialty items and is adjacent to a hair salon. Around the corner, Cajun Treats sells Louisiana-themed novelties, food items, and assorted other curiosities. Check them out or order gift baskets here.

But for us, the highlight of the town was the Welsh Museum.

This tidy treasure trove of antiquity displays a mix of memorabilia that defines the history of this proud town. Lots of photos tell the town’s story. They have desks, books, and trophies from old schoolhouses, photos of the town’s earliest houses, churches, stores, and other buildings. Vintage clothing depicts the fashions of bygone eras. There are several examples of early typewriters and antique sewing machines, old farm equipment, fragile yellowed business ledgers, and furniture. The museum is housed in a VFW building, so there’s an extensive war memorial exhibit, with uniforms and photos and histories of the town’s many military men. There’s a display case of Indian arrowheads that were found in a nearby excavation. There’s a painting of a world famous fiddle player who lived in Welsh. We mused over old kitchen gadgets and a wringer washing machine. And how about this antiquated equipment from a dentist office in Welsh?

Aside from the Museum, the best thing about Welsh is the Dairy Queen! But we were too full from lunch to stop for a treat. Next time.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Remembering Adolescence

I’ve been going through drawers and closets -- sorting, tossing, donating . . . purging unnecessary possessions. It’s a good feeling; getting rid of clutter. But oh my goodness, the things one can find on such a mission.

For example, yesterday I discovered a long-forgotten diary of mine from 1972-1973. I was around 12 years old at the time. Forty years. That’s how long it has been since I had opened this book. There wasn’t a lot written in it. (The serious journaling bug didn’t bite until I was in my 20s, I guess.) So it didn’t take me long to sit down and read through it all. Each entry brought back a memory that I hadn’t thought of in four decades. In that brief sojourn yesterday, seeing myself through my 12-year-old eyes, I became reacquainted with a part of my adolescence. Insightful, to say the least.

This was one of my favorite lines in the diary: “July 10, 1972. Dear Diary, I didn’t do much but I had a good time.”

Yes, that is so utterly me. My best days are the days that are quiet and unstructured, simple and carefree, spontaneous and open to anything. Or nothing. In that respect, I haven’t changed much over the years.

But this is what I looked like at that age. Both shots were taken at one of my all-time favorite places, Swallow Falls State Park, Maryland. Throughout my childhood, we camped there so often, I feel like it was my second home. I grew up there.


 How about you? What have you held onto through the years that can take you back and remind you of that bud of a person who bloomed into who you are today?

Oh, and by the way, I’m having a garage sale in a few weeks.