kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Imagination Celebration -- Raising Funds for the Lake Charles Children's Museum

When it comes to events in Southwest Louisiana, fundraisers are nearly as popular as festivals. We love to throw parties to raise money for anything and everything! Cures for countless diseases, animal shelters, arts organizations, churches, and every non-profit group you can think of. And trust me, these organizers know how to put the FUN in fundraiser!

Last Saturday, I attended a fundraiser for the Lake Charles Children's Museum.

Brief aside -- when we lived in Pittsburgh, we practically raised our sons at the Children's Museum. It was housed in an old historic building and offered several floors of fun, entertaining, and educational things for kids to do. One of our favorites was a giant climbing monstrosity called the Luckey Climber. The kids would spend what seemed like hours crawling through it. Invariably, they'd climb all the way to the top and get stuck. Then Bob would have to squeeze through and rescue them.

Thomas W. ("Tom") Luckey (January 6, 1940 – August 19, 2012) was an American architect and sculptor, best known for inventing abstract playgrounds called Luckey Climbers.[3] Luckey also created furniture, merry-go-rounds, and interiors. Huh, I did not know that until just now when I looked it up.

Now I'm completely off topic, but it's important to say that, when we moved to Lake Charles, even though our boys were a bit "old" (7th grade) for the Children's Museum, it's one of the first places we visited. It's a fantastic asset for Lake Charles' families. Website here.

Okay, now back to the fundraiser. They call it Imagination Celebration and they had an '80s theme.

Slash was there.

And Madonna costumes were quite popular. I got a kick out of going to the secondhand store and looking for outfits. I found a top that had shoulder pads (required in the '80s) and a ridiculously large clown-like collar. (Why did we do that?) I tried to make my hair "big" but heck, I didn't know how to do it in the '80s. Getting ready for this event was a nightmare of hair spray and gel. Felt like glue in my hair.

 I was going for the Don Johnson/Miami Vice look for Bob, which also was very popular at the event. Loose slouchy light-colored jacket. Turned up shirt collar. Pleated pants. Skinny knit tie.

A DJ duo played '80s tunes. There was incredible food from over 20 local eateries. 

Love these guys from Pops and Rockets. They make the most incredible awesome unique gourmet ice pops. Check out their Facebook page here.

And like most all fundraisers, there was a silent and live auction, karaoke contest, and 50/50 Split the Pot (we called this something else in Pa., and now I can't remember. Help me out, northern readers.)

What's your favorite good time for a good cause?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Light Sport Aviation -- Flying Over Lake Charles

As a journalist, I have the opportunity to do some pretty exciting things sometimes. Recently, as part of an interview for a story I’m writing on Light Sport Aviation, I got to fly in this little two-seater airplane for a bird’s eye view of Lake Charles. It’s a fascinating perspective!

As you can see, plane owner Larry Roach is a big LSU fan.

In a lightweight plane like this, take off takes about two seconds.

We flew over my neighborhood.

The 210 Bridge

L’Auburge Casino Resort getting ready for the Weezer concert, Party by the Pool.

Lake Charles and the I-10 Bridge

Downtown Lake Charles

The Capital One Building and the Civic Center

Sun shining over the 210 Bridge

Approaching the runway at the Lake Charles airport.

Mr. Roach loves talking to people about Light Sport Aviation. For more information, call him at the number below and check out this website.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Blue Bell Ice Cream -- Brenham, Texas

People in southwest Louisiana tend to have loyalties at the grocery store. They drink Coke (not Pepsi). Community Coffee, almost exclusively. And if it’s not Blue Bell Ice Cream, they’d often rather eat no ice cream at all.

So on our drive from Texas to bring Eric home last Friday, we made a detour through Brenham to tour the Blue Bell factory. Pretty exciting stuff!

One thing I was NOT prepared for was the crowds! My first clue was when we couldn’t park in the parking lot, but had to park a bit down the road in a high school stadium parking lot. When we entered the visitors center, we were greeted by this mob scene. Our tour guide later told us they get an average of 2,300 visitors on an average summer Friday.

After waiting in a long line to buy tickets, we had an hour to wait for our tour time. We went over to the ice cream parlor for our free sample . . .

. . . .and strolled the grounds and learned a bit about the factory’s history from the posters and displays in the visitors center. This is the original truck that delivered their ice cream.

Here are some interesting facts you may not know about Blue Bell Ice Cream:
  • The factory opened in 1907. They started out making butter. Four years later, they realized ice cream sold better and they’ve been making ice cream since then.
  • In 1930, they changed the name from Brenham Creamery to Blue Bell Creamery, to reflect the owner’s love of the beautiful wildflower that symbolizes northern Texas. It was also this year that they switched from delivering ice cream in a horse-drawn buggy to refrigerated trucks.
  • 70% of all Blue Bell Ice Cream is made in the Brenham factory. The remaining is made in two satellite factories; one in Oklahoma and one in Alabama.
  • One day of ice cream production requires the milk from 60,000 cows, all from local farms surrounding Brenham.
  • One production line (and there are several in the factory going at a time) fills 52 half gallons of ice cream a minute. They can fill 180 cones in a minute.
  • Naturally, as is the case with many factory tours, there was no photography allowed. They say it is to protect the privacy of their employees. The Brenham plant employs 900 people; there are 4,500 employees company-wide, including the two other factories and dozens of distribution centers. Lake Charles has a distribution center. No wonder, as much Blue Bell Ice Cream as we eat around here!
  • A hallmark of Blue Bell is the myriad of flavors. The factory produces around 60 different flavors in a year. Some flavors are seasonal. Some are regional. Others are “standard” year around flavors. Seventeen different flavors are made at the factory a day. They create 5-6 new flavors a year. If a new flavor sells well, it becomes a standard. Otherwise, they nix it. My personal favorite flavor is Rocky Mountain Road (it’s better than regular rocky road). I also love Red Velvet Cake.
  • Most stores have approximately 25 flavors on display at a given time. For the best selection, go to HEB, their “signature store.”


Speaking of new flavors, while on the tour, our guide pointed out that they were currently producing a new flavor. She wasn’t permitted to divulge the name. But we could see through the glass a key ingredient. When we guessed at the new flavor, she didn’t deny it. I won’t ruin the surprise, but it comes in a turquoise container, it makes its grocery store freezer shelf debut on August 28th, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be awesome!

For more information, check out their website here.

What's your favorite flavor of Blue Bell Ice Cream? Or, if you don't have access to Blue Bell, what is your favorite brand and flavor of ice cream?