kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Birds, Plants, and Roller Derby Chicks

What do bird watching, a garden show, and roller derby have in common?

Nothing, really. Except that Bob and I did all three of them on Saturday. It was a fun day, if a bit busy and tiring.

The Gulf Coast Bird Club hosts a bird walk at Sam Houston Jones State Park on the fourth Saturday morning of every month. I'd been wanting to join them for years and finally had a chance this weekend. We saw wood ducks, various woodpeckers, bluebirds, and a little blue heron, to name a few of the birds these experts spotted that morning. I was amazed at how these people could not only spot birds --  "Where? I don't see it." -- I must have said a dozen times, but also how easily they can identify them by the birds' calls. (The photo below was taken on a previous visit to the park.)

In the afternoon, we went to the Southwest Louisiana Garden Conference and Expo.

Basically, it was a giant plant sale. Vendors sold tomato plants and herbs, orchids and bonsais, bromeliads and hanging baskets of pansies, and fruit trees. I bought a pretty plant I'd never heard of before called a Bear's Ear Tibouchine. Right now it's only lush green leaves, but soon it should burst into showy purple blooms.

Lake Charles has a roller derby team called LaFitte's Ladies. I'd been curious about this for a year or so. Bob and I had wanted to check it out. Seems like there was always something else going on for us when they hosted a home bout. At first, Bob and I were very confused about what was happening, how they score, etc. but we started to catch on by the end of the evening. Seems it's all about the jammers. LaFitte's Ladies beat the Southern Misfits (from Mississippi) 338-118. Sorry for the poor photo quality. It's dimly lit in there and I didn't want to use flash. (And I should get a new camera.)

Tell me about your weekend. What adventures did you find?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tuten Park

Lake Charles is chock full of treasures. Jean Lafitte would be proud. One such gem is Tuten Park. Nestled along Nelson Road, this park, which several years ago had fallen prey to neglect and a bit of ill repute, has been revitalized, thanks to the efforts of the City of Lake Charles, local garden clubs, and park enthusiasts.

Today was a lovely sunny day, so my husband met me at the park for a lunchtime picnic. We had never really explored the park before. 

There’s a verdant picnic grove . . .

And several of these garden boxes throughout the park, maintained primarily by the Lake Charles Garden Club . . .

There’s an educational building where Boys Scouts can earn nature badges and the public can attend talks on anything from landscaping with native plants and trees to growing orchids, roses, or tomatoes. The building also has restrooms. There’s a nice playground. And we had heard there were trails. I was especially eager to find a nearby place to hike. A sign at the park entrance shows a map of the park, complete with a maze of paths. But alas, the trails are closed to the public – gated and locked -- at least at this time.

Here's the map of the trails. It does say "Phase II" will begin this year.

In the meantime, while we wait for the trails to open, Tuten Park is a great place picnic or take children out to play.

What is your favorite park and what do you like to do there?

Monday, March 3, 2014


Louisianians love food. They love to cook food, celebrate food, talk about food, eat food. And so it’s natural that they would also compete over food. Cook-offs. Who makes the best barbeque, boudin, jambalaya, boiled crawfish. And of course, gumbo.

There are so many things that uniquely define Louisiana, especially when it comes to cuisine. And I remain fascinated by all of them. Gumbo remains near the top of the list.

A Lake Charles Mardi Gras tradition took place this past Saturday -- the annual Gumbo Cook-Off.

The cool thing about gumbo is that no two gumbos taste alike. Most cooks do not use a recipe, but rather make it like their mama taught them. A pinch of this, a shake of that, with varying amounts of spices such as file´. Chicken and sausage gumbo is very traditional. But there are also seafood gumbos with shrimp and crab and wild game gumbos (with who knows what). And in each of those categories are endless variations. Typically, gumbo is served over rice. But some put a dollop of potato salad on top. Some serve it with a hard boiled egg. Should gumbo contain okra? People either love it or hate it.

I’m not sure how many teams competed this year. Twenty or so? Five dollars admission gets you all the gumbo you care to sample. Two bowls fill me up. I prefer chicken and sausage. Seafood is often good, but sometimes a bit fishy-tasting. Wild game – I won’t go there. I’m never quite sure what I’m eating in that category.

It's a great event, complete with live music, dancing, and Mardi Gras merriment. But I’d really like it if the organizers would move the venue to a larger location. It is such a popular event, the place is packed.

Here’s the crew on the PPG team. I don’t know who won the event, but these guys made a delicious chicken and sausage variety.

What is your favorite gumbo and who makes it?

Bon app├ętit!