kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Grant Christmas Tree Farm

Under the category of "Things I've Wanted to do Since We Moved to Louisiana," Grant Christmas Tree Farm has been near the top of my list for many years. Alas, this adventure proved tricky to accomplish. Visiting this popular holiday destination is only an option for the three Saturdays following Thanksgiving. Until today, we either had other plans. Or the weather was lousy. And besides, we had an artificial Christmas tree and had no use for a real one. But last year, our trusty fake tree basically disintegrated.

So today was the day! The Farm opens at 8:00 a.m. -- we aimed to arrive then. We got up bright and early, drove the hour and twelve minutes, and were shocked upon arrival to see a hundred cars already  in the lot at 8:15. Like I said, it's a popular place this time of year. You should have seen the parking mess when we left three hours later!

We headed straightaway to the tree fields. Our first decision was to choose a variety of pine. The Farm grows several.

Once we determined which variety, we searched for "the perfect tree." We were limited by the height of the tree -- no more than six feet -- so it would fit in the back of our vehicle (which is new and waiting to have a roof rack installed.) We don't know the name of this tree variety, but we liked it. What do you think?

Then we strolled the grounds of the festival. There's a lot to see and do. Hayrides, arts and crafts vendors, Santa and other activities for children. Roasted peanuts, fresh-boiled cracklins . . .

this huge swing . . .

animals waiting to be fed . . .

"Hey, got any food?"

new pups and an old dog who loved to have his belly rubbed.

This donkey walks countless circles, demonstrating the frontier way of grinding sugar cane to extract juice to make cane syrup.

There's live music, a gift shop, but the highlight of the festival, besides the trees, seems to be sausage biscuits. Sausage biscuits plain. With cane syrup. With white gravy. Or both. We waited in this line 40 minutes for  . . . sausage biscuits.

I was somewhat baffled. But I gather it is a tradition. Part of the experience. So, we waited.

Apparently bees are fond of cane syrup, too.

We ran into one of the boys' former middle school teachers who told us she and her family have been going to Grant Christmas Tree Farm every year for the past fourteen years. I'm certain we won't go every year -- we'll likely get another artificial tree next year -- but I suspect we'll be back someday. We enjoyed the holiday family time, and I can check this adventure off my endless list.

Trees in the processing area, waiting to be taken home.

What is your favorite family holiday tradition?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Walk-On's Bistreaux and Bar

Tia Juanita's Fish Camp, Blue Dog Cafe, Restaurant 1910 . . . if I tried to write a post on every new dining establishment that has popped up in southwest Louisiana lately, my travel/adventure/miscellaneous blog would turn into a full-time restaurant review.

But every once in awhile, I feel compelled to share my "adventure" at a new restaurant in the area. Like today, for example.

Walk-On's Bistreaux and Bar opened up on Common St., Lake Charles this past weekend. It's a great new addition to the lake area restaurant scene!

The staff -- greeters, bar tenders, and the servers (aka America's Cheerleaders) -- are energetic, enthusiastic, and friendly.

While this family-oriented establishment is obviously a sports bar, the main attraction at Walk-On's is the menu. It's a surprisingly fascinating read! You might expect typical bar fare at a sports bar. But not at Walk-On's. There's plenty of Louisiana favorites; poboys, crawfish, fried alligator, boudin, gumbo, shrimp, catfish . . . as well as burgers, creative salads, wraps, and more.

Displaying _20151122_201411.JPG
On our first (and certainly not last) visit, I had a Pepper Jelly Spinach Salad and Bob had an Ahi Tuna Wrap. Both were excellent. For dessert? Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding!  Oh, and did I mention there are 50 beers on tap?

Because this cool new place is within walking distance from our home, Bob says it's our new neighborhood bar. We'll be back.

What's your favorite sports bar or neighborhood pub?
Displaying IMG_4358.JPG
Displaying IMG_4358.JPGDisplaying IMG_4358.JPG

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Irving Berlin -- Learning About a Legend

Many people might define success as being remembered long after leaving this world; in effect, becoming a legend. Over the course of his 60-year career, iconic songwriter Irving Berlin wrote an estimated 1,500 songs, including the scores for 19 Broadway shows and 18 Hollywood films. He's clearly a beloved author in the Great American Songbook.

Berlin in 1941

I love learning new things. The SAGE Series, part of McNeese State University's non-credit Leisure Learning Program, schedules informal classes on a myriad of fascinating topics. Obviously I had heard of Irving Berlin, but I didn't know much about his life until I recently attended one of these classes.

Performed at the University's Tritico Theatre, two theater majors narrated the show, imparting interesting tidbits of his life, while five voice majors sang a selection of some of his most well-known songs.

Israel Isidore Baline was born on May 11, 1888 to Russian Jewish parents who escaped the pogroms and immigrated to the United States when Israel was still a young boy. (He later changed his name to Irving Berlin.) As a kid, he sold newspapers on a street corner and discovered he could sell more papers and earn tips if he also sang songs. He soon realized he had a knack for song writing.

His first hit was Alexander's Ragtime Band.

(Youtube is great but I dislike the ads, especially when you can't stop them early!)

Berlin was a versatile song writer. He wrote love songs. For example, he wrote his first ballad, "When I Lost You," after his first wife died of typhoid fever soon after their honeymoon. He wrote "Always" for his second wife, Ellin Mackay, after her wealthy father disowned her because she eloped with Berlin. Berlin gave the song rights to her so she would "always" be taken care of.

Berlin loved theater and wrote scores for musicals. His most famous was Annie Get Your Gun, starring Ethel Merman.

He wrote holiday songs that continue to be favorites to this day. What is the Christmas season without Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas."

He was a soldier in World War I and wrote several marches, military, and patriotic songs. I did not realize Irving Berlin wrote "God Bless America."

It was a pleasure to learn about this legendary American songwriter's life.

What is your favorite Irving Berlin song or musical?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Visiting Final Vestiges of Autumn

Bob and I went to our home state of Pennsylvania last week. The purpose of the trip was to visit my family once more this year before winter digs in with her cruel icy talons. I also wanted to see some fall foliage.

Funny, we humans, how we tend to take things for granted when they routinely recur. We expect these things, and even enjoy the beauty. But we rarely fully appreciate what we already have. Until we no longer have it. Such is true for me and the fall leaves.

Ohiopyle State Park -- One of my favorite places!

Living in Louisiana, I miss the vibrant hues of autumn; crimson, copper, sienna, golden ocher. Fall in the northeast is as exciting as a brand new box of crayons! We were too late for the peak of fall foliage, but caught the tail end. That was enough for me.

Now that I no longer regularly witness nature's annual costume change, when I do visit Pennsylvania in the fall, I see the landscape with fresh grateful eyes. Even as the the leaves drop to the ground and the colors begin to fade, the trees remain beautiful, to me.

Where did you see pretty leaves this fall?