Sunday, August 31, 2008


Update - Sun. p.m.: It's the calm before the storm I guess. Local weather dudes are predicting 35 mph sustained winds from mid-day tomorrow through Tuesday. Also predicting 10 to 20 inches of rain, the problem being that they expect the thing to stall out or slow down over East Texas. With Shreveport being on the NE quadrant that means lots of rain. All my preparations are done and I've prepped my mom as best I can. Steve is super busy as one might imagine. It's just a waiting game for now.

They are paying attention in NOLA it seems. Most are following the warnings and getting out. There are, as always, a few die hards who are refusing to leave.

As for our local situation, KTBS is predicting heavy rains and winds of 30 to 50 mph on Tuesday and heavy rain at least through Wednesday of up to one foot. So I've been making my little humble preparations. I went to the grocery store today to stock up on the necessary junk food (honestly, I am within walking distance to TWO grocery stores should anything drastic happen...) and bottled water. I'm not sure why I bought water - we've never lost water here. We almost always lose power though, so I stocked up on batteries. I got lucky really because I'd been hearing stories of how scarce batteries are already getting around town. At Super 1 I went straight to the battery section and it was wiped out. But when I got to the checkout line, there were a few remaining packages of D and C batteries hanging by the candy and chapstick displays. Score!

I also went to BestBuy and got a car charger for my cell phone, which I needed anyway. So if I lose power and can't blog, I will still be able to tweet on Twitter which posts to my blog (see it, on the right!). I am off now to secure my yard furniture; plastic lawn chairs and deck umbrellas don't hold up too well in 35 mph winds. I also need to move my mother's car to my house as I am on much higher ground and her driveway always floods. This is all so minor compared to those poor folks down south all along the coast. I'm am doing some serious praying for them. Imagine the nightmares this all brings back.

The panic in the media as this storm approaches is clear; I remember so clearly Janice Dean on FOX as Katrina approached. I knew it was serious when I listened to her. I'm getting that same feeling from her again although she is still hoping for a blessing for NO and a shift from Gustav to the west. Since Gov. Jindal cancelled school for the next 3 days, I hope to get some much needed work done and some MUCH needed housecleaning done. (Actually, I will probably do nothing but sit in front of the weather forecasts for the next 4 days, but I'll seriously try to make an effort.)

(Photo credit: Damien Weaver)

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal just closed schools in 30 parishes (including mine) through Wednesday because of Hurricane Gustav. Our local weather is predicting sustained winds of 40 + for two days, downed trees, flooding, and possible tornadoes. Steve's police department is going to 12 hour shifts and our evac shelters are filling up. Local stores are running out of bottled water already as well as batteries. I have rounded up all the batteries in the house I can find and started gathering candles. I'm rolling up the patio umbrellas and putting up the outdoor cushions. We are charging up iPods, laptops and cell phones! They are predicting Gustav to be a category 5 by the morning as it goes over the open Gulf waters. So continue to keep La. in your thoughts and prayers, especially the coastal areas. Jindal says this one is as bad as it gets.

A Storm is Blowing

"We've taken in all the balcony furniture, all the pool furniture, the marquees, tied up what needs to be tied up, cut down any coconuts," said hotel manager Dan Szydlowski"

Folks all over Louisiana, and other places, are getting ready for a hurricane. Gustav is headed our way. Even though I'm in northwest Louisiana, we are expecting to be affected as well, not just with sheltering evacuees but by some nasty weather. Gustav is a Cat 3 right now which means as it continues its inland track, it will still likely create havoc with our local weather. In Shreveport, we've already received nursing home evacuees. Shelters for both humans and pets are in place and are already receiving people.

My thoughts and prayers are, of course, with all those south of me that are going to be and are currently being affected by Gustav, especially those Katrina survivors who must surely be having nightmare flashbacks right now.

(Photo credit: AP:
Thunderstorms from Hurricane Gustav are seen off the coast of San Juan, Puerto Rico.)

Opening Day!

LSU opens its season today against Appalachian State. The 4pm game was moved to 10 a.m. because of incoming Hurricane Gustav, and will be broadcast on ESPN Classic.

I love LSU football and come from a long tradition of LSU football lovers. My dad never missed it. I did not actually go to an LSU game until I was grown; I think I was about 26 or so, but I'll NEVER, EVER forget the first time I walked into Death Valley. There are almost no words for that first experience. The whole experience was fantastic: the crowds, the smells of the food being prepeared by the tailgaters, the friendly, jovial, intoxicating atmosphere. The band marching through the streets to the stadium was thrilling. The stadium itself reminding me of the Roman Coliseum; inside, the crowds moving like cattle to their seats. But then, coming through the little tunnel from underneath the seats INTO the stadium absolutely took my breath away. That first sighting of the field - a huge expanse of brilliant green grass, the brilliant lights, the band on the field in performance, and the crowds. OMG the crowds. Every single seat was filled and everyone was moving and yelling and wearing purple and gold. For a newbie, a novice, it was quite breath-taking. And I was hooked. So I'm putting out my LSU flag today, maybe making some gumbo, (even though it is 95 degrees today) and getting ready for some football!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Getting to Know Sarah Palin

When I heard that Sarah Palin was John McCain's pick for VP, I have to admit, I kinda liked it. My friend Sarah in Atlanta has been picking Sarah from Alaska for a while now, and I've been doing a little research on the Alaskan governor. Then Steve called me and he's all "Did you hear this?! I am NOT amused!" I told him, "I don't HATE it; this might be kind of good."

As far as the experience question, give me a break. She's more qualified to be President than Obama is; she has at least held executive office as opposed to his 143 days in the Senate and his "community organizer" experience before that (what IS that, anyway?). I love her take-no-prisoners attitude. I love that she stands on her own principles and doesn't play the game of politics. She's smart.

This has got to be killing the Obama camp; the Republicans got the woman on the ticket, and as Rush Limbaugh pointed out today, she doesn't have to wear pantsuits and her husband isn't a crook. She has at least visited soldiers in Iraq (proving she knows her way around a gun) and visited wounded soldiers in Germany. She returned to office three days after giving birth in April - that's TOUGH!

I'm liking this choice. I will leave you with this quote from Limbaugh's program today which had me laughing until I cried:

"He actually said in his speech last night -- the audience sort of looked a little stunned. He said, "I am my brother's keeper." He actually said it. His brother lives in a hut! On twelve dollars a year! His brother lives in a hut, a shack, a six-by-nine-foot hut outside Nairobi. He is his brother's keeper? He hasn't even sent his brother a "Hut, Sweet Hut" sign to put up inside the hut. If he sent his brother 20 bcks, he's come close to doubling his annual income. He is his "brother's keeper." About all they have to say is, "I'm troubled by her lack of experience." This is going to come back to bite them, and I'll tell you something else. The Democrats are going to send out their liberal women. They're going to send out the Madeleine Albrights. (I welcome that, by the way.) They're going to send out their Jane Fondas. They're going to send out all of their women. I'll bet you we don't hear much from Hillary, and I'll bet you we don't hear much from Bill -- except he's probably trying to get her number right now." (Quote from

The thing that strikes me about Palin is that I do NOT question her patriotism or her loyalty to her country as I do with Obama (and Michelle). I'm sure we'll hear shady things about her rousted out by the political-types, but I seriously doubt that Palin would have attended a church for twenty years listening to her pastor damn America. This woman hunts and eats moose for crying out loud (a fact that Steve hates). I think after we get to know Sarah we will find it to be an inspired choice! Can't WAIT for the RNC!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Louis Van Thyn

Update: 4/28/09: Sorry - The Times link in this post is no longer active. I should have copy/pasted the article!

I was saddened this morning to see that we lost Louis Van Thyn. Louis and his wife Rose are remarkable people and have done so much for our community in sharing their story of the Holocaust and the story of their lives. I first met them when I was a participant in Lisa Nicoletti's Holocuast seminar at Centenary College a few years back, sponsored by the LEH. Rose and Louis came to speak to us and, as it was every time she spoke, it was a very emotional event. Louis was Rose's "designated driver" but that day he shared a bit of his story, too. I encourage you to go to this Times link and read about their lives for a really inspiring story. That Louis and Rose were able to live such full and happy lives after the war is a testament to the human spirit.
(Photo credit: Val Horvath/The Times)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mystery Science DNC

I am such a nerd-with-no-life that I had a huge time last night watching the Democratic Convention streaming over Fox News on the internet. I am a long-time fan of Shepard Smith and when I heard he was going to be streaming (no script) live (no telling what he will say) on the internet (no rules) I had to tune in. When he plugged the stream during the Fox Report as "Mystery Science DNC" I knew I could not miss it. I always thought Mystery Science Theater was hilarious!

And sure enough, I was not disappointed. During the big speeches last night, Hillary's included of course, Shep and his panel turned their backs to the camera, donned aluminum foil antennae, and commented throughtout the speeches. At one point Shep even resorted to whistling "God Bless America" underneath part of Hillary's speech. And at no point were they hateful or disrespectul of any of the speakers. In fact, Shep would interject with e-mails from folks watching the broadcast and if they were hateful or rude he would chide them harshly. Fair and balanced!

I will tune in tonight for "Mystery Science DNC" as Bill Clinton gives his speech. Shepard Smith without a script and unrestricted is always good entertainment. Plus he's cute as all heck.

Deja VooDoo

Is this picture making anyone else nervous? I wasn't in New Orleans during Katrina but Shreveport was bad enough. Steve was down there right after as part of the evacuation effort of the convention center with the police department and he brought back some rough stories and some photos. Nobody wants to revisit that! Maybe Gustav won't take the track they are predicting; we shall hope not! I'm concerned about the rebuilt levees and how much NOLA can take given that they have not yet fully recovered from Katrina. The emotional wounds may not EVER heal for many.

As a teacher in Bossier Parish, I can tell you that we absorbed a lot of students into our school after Katrina. I now know what shell-shock looks like. Many of those kids had such a haunted look in their eyes that it would break your heart. Some of them stayed on at our school and graduated; some moved back to NOLA, some moved and settled elsewhere.

So I'm saying a little prayer for New Orleans today.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Where In the Hell Am I?

Rush Limbaugh cracks me up! On Barack Obama's now famous gaffe at the DNC last night, Limbaugh said, "The good that Obama was broadcasting from a stranger's house and not a relative's hut!" I wonder which of the fifty-seven states Obama really thought he was in?

(Photo credit:

IS There a Mouse in Mom's House? (Part 4)

Honestly, this rat is so smart I'm going to hate killing it; well, not really. As you may remember, my mother saw a rat in her house a few weeks ago. I've set out glue traps AND D-Con and so far no rat, dead or alive. There are, however, signs of rat. Such as the half-gnawed glue trap with black fur stuck in it a couple of weeks ago. He chewed himself free. For a while I was convinced that he was living IN my mother's couch because that was really the only place I've seen those lovely rat droppings. And that's where the half-gnawed trap was. At that time I loaded the underside of the couch with four glue traps and one tasty D-Con serving. Ever since then - nothing.

I was in my mother's kitchen the other day and by the portable dishwasher I saw rat droppings along the baseboard. I rolled out the dishwasher, and while the evidence is not overwhelming, I think Mr. Rat may be taking refuge either in the portable dishwasher (which is seldom used) or somewhere else in the kitchen. I pulled one of the four glue traps from under the couch and have placed it under the dishwasher. I've also placed another D-Con tray under there. So as it is now, I have one trap and one D-Con under the dishwasher, and 3 traps and a D-Con under the couch. There are six other glue traps scattered in discrete places throughout the house (well hell, I can't put them where Mom can see them because she thinks Steve killed the rat with a broom; yes, we are both going to hell).

Every single time my phone rings my heart jumps because I know it is my mother calling to report a rat sighting. That's guilt working for you. I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop, as they say. I know this isn't over but the pressure is KILLING me!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Let There Be Light - Anodyne Infrared Light

For the past four weeks or so I've been taking my elderly mother to physical therapy twice a week for treatment on a compressed nerve which has caused neruopathy in her hands (and to a certain extent, her feet). I don't want to go too much into her personal issues here, but I did want to say a couple of things about the treatment she is getting because it was new to me.

I'm a real believer in physical therapy. After a car accident almost 10 years ago, I had to go to physical therapy for a while. The short version is that it took lots of tests and lots of doctors to finally figure out that a facet joint was knocked out of place in my neck. After a few weeks of physical therapy, which in my case included mild traction, my very gifted therapist one day said, "Here, hang on, I'm going to pop that thing back in now. I think the traction has done its job." And BAM -- he turned my head one way and pushed the other way on that joint with his thumbs and I was cured. It was miraculous. I believe in good physical therapy.

So as far as my mom goes, they've had her on something called anodyne therapy. The layman's explanation is that these pads are strapped to your hands and feet (where peripheral neuropathy occurs) and the pads emit what was described to me as "an almost, but not quite, infrared light" and the whole basic idea is to stimulate the circulation. There's no pain or discomfort, just a soothing warmth. We go twice a week and they alternate treatments from 30 minutes to 45 minutes and then back to 30.

After seven treatments, it seems to be working. I don't want to jinx anything, but for the past week and a half mom has been saying that the flexibility is greatly improved in her hands even though they are still totally numb. Yesterday she told me that she thought she could almost feel in her right hand (she bites on her finger to see how much pressure it takes to feel it!). She says she doesn't have to bite as hard to get sensation. Dubious, but still progress. After today's treatment, she said she could feel her toes for the first time in months. She said, "I'm a little excited!" Cautiously.

I'm not sure this will fix it all; there is still the compressed nerve to deal with, but for patients with neuropathies, this seems to be something hopeful. The girls at Tri-State Physical Therapy are awesome; they are compassionate, kind, funny, and skilled. I can't say enough good things about them. A patient really bonds with his physical therapist. I know this from personal experience and I see it in my mom too. Neuropathies are fairly common in diabetic patients (which mom is not) and I'm hoping that this treatment gains more widespread acceptance if it does, indeed, help. The research I've found on it is there, but there's not a lot of it. Lot's of places don't even offer it. Not all insurance companies pay for it because they see it as experimental.

But for us, for now, it seems to be working. Knock on wood!

(Photo credit:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Reading Debate

There was an interesting article in the New York Times last month concerning what it means to read in the digital age. As an English teacher, I found the article rather intriguing. The focus was on how kids these days are reading and the debate about whether reading online is really "reading," the point being that reading online is not the same as reading in a traditional book for example. That seems obvious, but obviously traditional books have a clear beginning, middle, and end whereas online kids surf from link to link to link. No wonder attention spans are shrinking.

I'm not knocking reading online. I read all my newspapers online and I read lots of magazine articles online. What intrigues me is the debate around it and also the potential. The naysayers contend that reading things like MySpace and FanFiction is the equivalent of "empty calories." I can see this side of it; surfing from one link to the next requires a shorter attention span, yet on the other hand, so much information is so much more easily accessible than it was before the internet.

As a teacher, I find sites like The Orwell Prize and The Samuel Pepys diary both innovative ways to get kids to read literature. The diaries of both George Orwell and Samuel Pepys are posted online daily as a blog. I don't know too many high school kids these days who would pick up the multivolume Pepy's diary but they might read it online. As both blogs come out daily in single date entries it goes back to that short attention span thing, but at least kids would be reading. Both sites, of course, include hyperlinks to more detailed information.

In the New York Times article, there was a quote from historian David McCullough: “Learning is not to be found on a printout. It’s not on call at the touch of the finger. Learning is acquired mainly from books, and most readily from great books.” I like the stodginess of McCullough!

Since I am an old fogey and did all my college research in books (remember those old green Reader's Guides?) , I'm just a purist for books. I love the crisp pages and the smell of ink. I adore musty, moldy old library stacks and could get lost in them for days. I like being able to touch the words. But I also think that internet reading has something to offer kids and as a teacher I see it as a tool to be used rather than a scurge to discourage.

The Blue Willow Inn Cookbook

As the school year has started I find that I have less time for cooking. I love to cook and love to try new recipes, but it always takes me a few weeks to get back into the routine of the school year. Steve would take me out to dinner every night if that's what I wanted, but we both get tired of eating out. We enjoy eating out more if we don't do it too often. I prefer to cook when I can.

On the weekends I do have time to put together decent meals. Yesterday, for example, I made red beans and rice; I might have been inspired by my recent trip to Don's Seafood, or maybe it was a deep longing for fall to hurry up, but either way, they turned out pretty good. I like to use a mixture of andouille and regular pork sausage in my red beans and rice. Plus, it makes lots of leftovers for the upcoming week!

Today I'm going to make a shrimp and rice casserole that is in The Blue Willow Inn cookbook. The Blue Willow Inn is in Social Circle, GA, about an hour out of Atlanta. I've never been there but my sister gave me their cookbook for Christmas last year and I've made nearly everything in it. It's good old, bacon-grease-laden Southern cooking! (Yesterday I made their banana pudding recipe to go along with my red beans and rice). Many of their recipes use boxed or canned ingredients (like cream of mushroom soup), which most purist cooks scoff at, but the Blue Willow philosophy is that in all likelihood that's how your grandmother cooked. They are all about recreating that authentic Southern home cooking taste.

I'm glad I don't live near enough to the Blue Willow Inn to eat there often because by the looks of their cookbook, I'd weigh 500 pounds in no time.

Here, for your enjoyment, is Savannah Shrimp and Rice, from the Blue Willow Inn Cookbook.

1 small onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
8 cups cooked rice
1 pound cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 (10-3/4 oz.) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
salt and pepper
1/2 plus 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese

Sautee the onion and pepper in the butter. Preheat the oven to 350. In a mixing bowl, combine the onion and pepper with the rice, shrimp, soup, curry powder, 1/2 cup grated cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Pour shrimp mixture into a 9 x 12-inch baking dish. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until bubbly. Remove from the oven, and immediately sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Serve hot. Makes 8 servings.

(Photo credit:

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Nifty New Lamp is Repaired

Remember the lamp I found in my mother's closet? I had it rewired, bought it a new shade, and polished it (for 45 minutes!). This is the end result. I like it!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Last Call

I could not stand it and had to go just one more time to Don's before it closed. And because Steve loves me, he took me. We got there about 5:30 and it was so crowded that Steve had to park across the street at Brookshires. While he parked, I made my way inside and left my name with the hostess and she said "An hour and a half."

I have to say, it was thrilling to see how Shreveport came out to say goodbye to the old landmark. People of all ages were there and everyone had memories. I overheard one gentleman say, "I'm trying real hard to be cheerful but it's not easy." Lots of folks were walking around with cameras, myself included. I can't even think about how emotional it will be there tomorrow night and then on Sunday as they turn out the lights. I know from working in restaurants myself that those people you work with like that become family. There will be some tears shed before the door closes for the last time on Sunday.

Steve and I made our way to the bar and one of the waitresses was sitting there; she'd just had knee surgery and could not work but just "had to come say goodbye" to her customers that she knew would show up. And they did - in droves. We visited with her for a bit and she said people have been coming in like that ever since the news broke that Don's is closing on Sunday. You just couldn't help but think, "Where WERE all these people before?" and I'm guilty myself. I haven't been to Don's as much as I should have. It's been something I just took for granted and figured it would always be there. I talked to several people that said, "We come EVERY Friday night!" Our waitress friend told us that they had been struggling for a couple of years and just could not make it any more.

Of the artifacts in the place, I hear that Apollo has been sold already. Everything else will be sold. Steve and I shared a final dozen raw oysters at the bar, and I had a draft beer. He had to go to work so he had a coke. And as we left, I must admit, it was with a little tear in my eye that I said goodbye to Don's.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What I Would Grab In a Fire

When I was little I used to lay in bed at night and wrestle with the paranoid possibility that the house could catch fire and I'd have to decide what to save. I'd run through all the possibilities - my Barbies? my favorite clothes? my jewelry? my stuffed animals? Would I wake up my parents before or after I grabbed my stuff? Which neighbor's house would we evacuate to? This seriously would keep me going for hours. I was an insomniac at a very early age (I outgrew it).

These days it is easier to figure out what is important. Of course it is those things that can not be replaced. I have way too much clutter in my house, way too many things I could live without but just like having around. But I know, these days, that if my house caught fire and I had to grab just one thing (besides my child and my dog, of course) it would have to be these letters my father wrote when he served in World War II.

Just about all of them are to his mother - he wrote to her several times a week. For the entire time that he served and was away from home, his daily life is chronicled in these letters. His fears for the future, his romantic dilemmas (my mom was not yet really in the picture), his longing for home, anecdotes from around the air base, what movies he saw and what he ate for dinner. They are all handwritten, of course, in his now familiar rambling script. I can imagine him in his barracks hunched over a desk, or propped in his bunk dutifully writing to his mother. His "voice" comes through loud and clear and when I read them I see my father in a completely different way than I, of course, knew him. He is, for those few moments, young, vulnerable, and impressionable. He was envious, curious, and ambitious. He was human.

Dad has been gone for 20 years now and I know, in case of fire, I know that these can NEVER be replaced. I have been trying for years to figure out a good way to preserve them. Nothing brilliant has ever hit me. So they sit in a shoebox on the top shelf of my closet, easy to get to in case I have to.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

And Now Back To Guitar Players

Just once more, indulge me for my new friend Sarah, some Mark Knopfler. Knopfler is fabulous and is in fact allowed to breathe in the same air-space that is the awesomeness of Clapton. The chill bumps start at 5:43 for me on this one because I know what's coming. By 6:57 I'm down.

Damn, I am SUCH a groupie.

Another Sad Restaurant Tale

I was sad to hear about the closing of Don's Seafood Restaurant in Shreveport. They will be closing this weekend after 43 years. They just aren't getting the business anymore. Ironically, they've been busier than ever since the closing was announced - evidence of the adage, you don't appreciate what you have until it is gone.

The restaurant business in this town is over saturated and it will be the local places that go first. When Brocato's and Sansone's closed I thought it might be the end of the world. Now the last of the trio, Don's is going. Ernest's is left and it seems pretty solid for now but we better wake up and support our local restaurants or all we will have left will be freeze dried "grilled chicken" reheated by a broiler and served on a bed of lettuce from some chain restaurant on Youree Drive.

Don's, I will always remember you for great Bloody Marys and lump crabmeat salad, great service and atmosphere, and that huge blue marlin on the wall in the bar.

(Photo credit:

I Didn't Forget You Jackson!

As long as we're talking about great musicians, I have to put my man Jackson Browne out there. I was actually getting into that guitar player discussion, which I'm going to get back to, but then I thought "How can we overlook the keyboard players?!" Jackson Browne makes me cry every time I listen to him because I can't play the piano. Not that I could have ever learned to play like that -- I think it's a gift when you have the talent Jackson does. That's always been one of my real sticking points with great musicians -- I like the "real" ones - those that write their own stuff and then perform it. I mean, Jackson has written some really great music AND he can play one hell of a piano, AND the guitar AND tell a funny story; he's the whole package.

I've seen Jackson perform six or seven times. I saw him a few times in Dallas and then several times here in Shreveport. Two Shreveport concerts stand out; one was at Municipal auditorium and was so small and intimate that I remember walking up to the stage, putting my elbows on it and leaning on them, right at the base of his piano. I could have touched his jeans. The other time was at The Strand and was a bit bigger; I was even able to get his autograph on a great 8 x 10 picture I had of him that my friend Mary Beth had taken at a Dallas concert years before. We had great seats though and Jackson talked to us all a lot, telling stories about his songs. What was so great was that it was back in the days of Napster, before it became legit, and someone had recorded the whole concert and put it on there. So I have the Shreveport concert burned on two cds. Love it. I think I can hear myself whooping a time or two.

I love musicians. Some musicians are just entertainers, doing covers of other people's stuff. Jackson and Eric = real deal. And just LOOK at Jackson. I could hurt him. Seriously.

(Photo credit:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Turn it Up Loud!!!!!!!!!

I recently got into a kind of discussion with someone about great guitar players. If you know me AT ALL you know that there is no question, no doubt, not even a millisecond of hesitation before my man Slowhand comes to mind. While there are many good guitar players, there are only a few that are great, and then there is Clapton.

My earliest memory of Clapton is the old Derek and the Dominoes; I was probably in middle school. Elks club swimming pool. Jukebox. Coppertone and chlorine in the air. Sweat, sun, and Layla. Over and over.

Through the years I've listened to a LOT of Clapton and lots of versions of Layla. Clapton did so much more than Layla that is great but this particular song is so fine to me because I have alternately through the years closed my eyes and listened to ... just the guitar....just the piano...just the lyrics....and it's all great. GREAT. Each version highlights some little sublime shift, some gentle new turn. The unplugged version is great; the studio version is great, the various live versions are great.

I offer then this version for you to watch. My heart skipped beats at 0.00, 0 :44, 2:58, 4:13, 4:34, 5:18, 6:02, 6:20, and 7:02.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Christmas Craftiness

I know it's only August but I've got Christmas in the back, the far corners, of my brain. Last year when I got my Christmas issue of Better Homes and Gardens they had these super cute patterns in there for little house ornaments. When I saw them it really reminded me of these little cardboard houses we used to put on our mantle at home when I was growing up. Each house was different and each was a sort of cottage or bungalow design. Some had cellophane at the windows and some did not. Most all had snow on the roof. Most had holes cut into the back so you could put a light inside.

Whenever we decorated the house for Christmas, the mantle was always my favorite part. Of course I loved doing the tree, but my mother was a maniac about the icicles (ONE at a time!!! -- sadly, I do the same thing now) and the mantle was always a safer bet. I couldn't screw it up. First went the long piece of glittery cotton for the snowy ground. Then I'd pull out all the houses and the bottle-brush trees. I could spend hours rearranging the houses to build my perfect little community (I guess it was like SIMS in the 60s...). After the houses were perfect, in went the trees. Big ones, small ones, snowy ones, decorated ones. Through the years they all started to get bunged up looking, but I loved them.

The best part came at the end when the reindeer part came. We had all the reindeer (in lovely white plastic in running poses) and even a Rudolph with his red nose. He went at the front, of course. I lined them up side by side in front of all the houses.

Today, the houses have long since bit the dust but I still have the reindeer (although one has a leg amputated at the knee - probably an unfortunate roof landing...). And this year I've been making the little house ornaments from Better Homes and Gardens except I blew the scale up to make mine mantle sized. Mantle sized isn't very big, maybe seven or eight inches tall. I have bought new bottle-brush trees and I will use my white plastic reindeer. And so this Christmas my mantle will have the same sort of display as the one in my childhood. My first house (pictured here) is sort of sloppy and is a ... spec house... I guess you'd say, but I'll keep working on them! Check back in December and see how they all turned out!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Recycling Remediation

Curbside recycling begins in Shreveport tomorrow! We've all received our blue toters and I've had mine filled for weeks. So the big day is tomorrow - the first pickup. Ours is a pretty simple recycling program -- just dump your recyclables into the blue cart; you don't have to sort anything. But when the carts came, they also came with a flyer of simple instructions as to what you can and cannot put in there. Obviously no garbage, no yard waste, no rocks, bricks, dirt, that sort of thing.

I thought I was all ready to go with my little cart pulled to the curb and then I read Kathryn Usher's blog which reminded me that the toter handle must face the house! I'm all, "Oh crap I did it wrong!" I felt like a dork running outside to turn around my cart. But sure enough, I checked my flyer, and I watched the little video (Recyling 101) and the handle does in fact face your house.

Because we have no life whatsoever, tonight Steve and I did a drive-by-survey of recycling carts in the neighborhood (I know, it's sad, but we are morons). Our informal survey shows that Shreveport-ites have a lot to learn about recycling. We saw blue bins filled with garbage, overflowing with yard waste, sitting with crap piled on top of them, right next to phone poles, behind other trash cans, no where NEAR the requested 3 feet clearance, and WORST of all, according to our most official informal survey, about 95% of the blue carts are facing the wrong way.

We debated whether or not we should buy gold stars and put on those bins that were correctly placed; we considered that maybe the trucks should just leave the offending carts filled with yard waste and garbage until the owners get it right. We are harsh critics. We are so perfect. But in the end, we let it go and decided it will probably take everyone a few weeks to get it right. We have faith in you Shreveport! We can do this!

I Want Your Zip Code!

Cops have the funniest stories sometimes. I know this because I've been dating one for five years. Last week I was reminded of one of Steve's "cop stories" when I got pulled over for an expired inspection sticker. Yes, I was guilty, I had procrastinated and not gotten it done. I was driving along, under the speed limit, safely buckled in, NOT talking on my cell phone, minding my own business and there you go. Bam. Flashing lights in the rear view mirror. Damn. I pulled over and I'm all "You're not seriously going to give me a ticket are you? If I name drop will that HELP?" No ma'am. I dropped Steve's name and rank and he's all, "You can call who ever you want to call and see if they want to help you but I'm giving you this ticket." Seriously?

And all I could think about was to ask him for his zip code. Years ago Steve pulled over a couple to issue a WARNING ticket - not a REAL ticket, just a warning about a busted light. The gentleman got out of the car all nice and polite and Steve explains the deal to him. Everything's cool until the guy's wife comes flying out of the car ranting and raving at Steve. Steve tells the guy, "Sir, you need to get your wife back in the car." The guy is all "I'm sorry, she just got out of the hospital and she's not well." (Really?!) Steve says, "Sir, you have to get your wife back in the car before this gets out of control." She's yelling and ranting at Steve, "I want your ZIP CODE! I want your ZIP CODE!" Steve looks at the guy, looks at her, and says "Seven eleven twelve, now get back in the car!" And she did. I guess she wanted to send him a Christmas card.

So after my new friend writes up the ticket for my inspection sticker, I thought, "I should have gotten his zip code. "

(Image credit: Discovery Education's Clip Art Gallery: Mark A. Hicks)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Very Special Celebration for Mary

A long, long time ago, my daughter Nikki came home one day and said "Mom! I wanna go on Coldwell and play at Mary's!" Coldwell was two blocks over and Nikki was, at that time, still young enough for me to worry about her walking and wandering "so far" from home. Long story short, Nikki and Mary Evelyn became best friends in only the way young girls of that age do and by that I mean life-time friends. Friends you keep forever.

Mary Evelyn had a twin, Kathryn, and an older brother Walt, and a younger sister Carolyn. And Mary had one heck of a wonderful mother, also named Mary. Through the years, their house became a second home for Nikki and LOTS of other teenagers. I learned a lot about parenting from Mrs. Peoples and she's remained a role model for me in many ways as both a parent and a teacher.

Today Mrs. Peoples had a birthday celebration organized by her children. They were all in attendance, grandkids in tow. Mrs. Peoples is a teacher by profession and also just by life. She taught me a lot about parenting when a tragedy happened in our neighborhood that devastated our teenagers and she knew how to pull them together. Mary and Johnny Peoples have always had an open door and a soft heart for any kid that came through their door. I will always remember the lessons she taught me during those dark days ("These kids ALWAYS know they can stay here at my house!"). She would feed them, talk to them, advise them, teach them, nurture them. Raising teenagers these days is scary business and she told me back then, "I'd rather them be here, at my house, than somewhere I don't know where they are or what they are doing!" and she did - she had an open door, a soft couch, a warm blanket, a plate of food, a soft shoulder, a heap of loving, motherly advice for all of them. Lesson learned! She's right!

Mary has been teaching for 30+ years and has been teaching at Cope Middle School for over 20 years. I can't even begin to imagine the impact she has had on lord only knows how many kids. It is a real testament to her that her birthday celebration tonight was attended by folks of all ages -- kids she "raised" and those she taught, people she's worked with and worked for. And by the way, it was a beautiful party with twinkly lights, candles, lots of food, specially recorded music, and if I am correct, they even tore down a garage for her! I can't think of too many more people that I hold in higher regard!

Listening To...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Explore Monticello

Ever since I saw the John Adams mini-series I developed an intense interest in both Adams and Jefferson. I went back, after the movie, and read books on both men and learned a lot about both of them. Adams was probably under appreciated I have decided. I admire how he stuck to his principles, specifically by not giving into pressure and refusing to cave into party politics just to get elected. Jefferson was "an odd duck" as my mother might say, yet very interesting. I was quick to dismiss him as hypocritical for denouncing slavery yet owning over 300, but I think there's more to him than that. I have decided that he was brilliant. Have you read the Declaration of Independence lately? I suggest everyone watch at least some, if not all, of this mini-series before you vote in November.

At any rate, this site is great. You can go there and learn about Jefferson, his life, his times, his gardens, his homes; you can take virtual tours, you can access the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, read all of Jefferson's writings; you can even buy seeds from the Monticello gardens (which I did this spring)! There are even special pages for teachers to use in their classrooms. I can spend hours on this site. Check it out!

(Photo credit:

Just Say No

I have to say it; I have to vent! THIS GUY IS A SCUMBAG! I NEVER liked him, I always thought he was creepy - he makes my skin crawl; he has always come off as a total hypocrite to me and now, now over these past couple of weeks as all his vile personal filth has come out, his lies exposed, I'm so ready for him to finally go away. He even makes me type in run-on sentences. Gawd.

Let me just say, and I'll leave it, politics aside, any guy that cheats on his cancer stricken wife is a scumbag. End of story. Scumbag. Go away.

(Photo credit:

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Lending Hand

Donald Trump is a class act! This is a KIND thing to do, in my opinion, although there could be some slithery details I don't know about. I've always liked Donald Trump, was never really sure why, and now I guess I know. I grew up watching Ed McMahon on the Johnny Carson show and always liked him, and I guess The Donald does too!

(Photo credit: Everett Fenton Gidley)

Junk Food Breakfast

Today was my first full day of school, no kids yet, just inservice. I had to be across town at 7:45 and left in plenty of time (I hate to be late!). I made my way down the notoriously backed-up Airline drive and pulled into the Circle K for my mandatory Diet Coke. The parking lot was full - never a good sign. I walked in and there were NO LESS than 25 people in line. I am totally not exaggerating. I'm like "Oh crap" but I gotta have the coke so I grab one and take my place at the end of the line. I'm standing there, at the end of the line, thinking, "WHY are all these people in here!" A quick visual survey revealed that 95% of them had a soda of some kind. Others had coffee. 80% of them had junk food of some kind - Twinkies, beef and cheddar sticks, candy bars, chips, one hot dog, gum, etc.

Granted, Circle K is NOT a health food store, but all I could think is "No wonder we're a nation of obese people if this is how we eat breakfast!"

The line went pretty quickly really, except of course I was behind some guy who needed three separate money orders.

I eventually got out of there with my healthy breakfast and got to my meeting on time. Tomorrow - Apple Cinnamon Cheerios!

In the Mood

Last night was the Dimensions In Blue Jazz Ensemble concert. The group is based on Lackland AFB and was created in 1941. They put on a great show, and like the Falconaires concert that we saw in the spring, they had a female vocalist who was very good. The concert was at the Bossier Civic Center and it was filled with people from little kids to elderly folks. This group was heavy on the jazz, as you might expect, but played some Paul Simon ("Still Crazy After All These Years") as well as traditional selections ("Battle Hymn of the Republic"). Vocalist Donna Siler brought tears to some eyes with her rendition of that one.

To me, the BEST part of the night was when they did their final song which was Glenn Miller's "In The Mood" which EVERYONE loves. At the very first notes the little white haired lady in front of me squealed with glee and waved her hands in the air, jitterbug fashion, tapped her little feet, and danced in her chair throughout the song! It was priceless! The horns left the stage and mingled through the audience as they played and it was simply fabulous!

Steve and I just love these concerts. They bring people of all ages together through the music and they are just good fun.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

They're Coming....

Today is my last day of summer. I went to school today and did a few things in my room, made some copies, and looked around a bit. The school looks great! A lot of folks have been BUSY this summer and I saw some very positive changes!

My goal this year? Raise the bar a bit for my students and challenge them each and every day for their best efforts. I hope they will learn the rewards of a job well done and the pride and self-confidence that comes from that. My goal is always to help prepare them for the "real world."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Another Nifty New Lamp

It must be my lucky lamp week or something but when I told my mother today that I had taken my nifty new/old lamp over to be reworked, she says, "Oh well if you liked that one you might like that other old lamp I have stuck up on the top shelf of the back closet!" Well, yeah, I would.

This is way cool. According to the story, "one of Aunt Maud's husbands, you know she had several, had this lamp made for her out of an old artillery shell." So Steve and I get up into the closet and pull this thing down, and yeah, I remember seeing it around the house back in the day, but it's been in the closet for ages and I forgot about it. Anyway, if you unscrew the base (which needs replacing) it is clearly an old shell. It's been brassed, hammered, and a flower design beat into it (including Maud's name in that wide band at the bottom). What is REALLY interesting is that on the back of it (not seen in this photo) is "Saint Mihiel 1917" which was the first American offensive in World War1 led by General John Pershing.

Mom was all "Aunt Maud really thought she was giving me something when she gave me that" and all I can think, and actually what I said was, "She did!" I love it.

So, now I have ANOTHER nifty brass lamp to polish up, fix up, and buy a shade for! It's like Christmas!

Stupid Pet Tricks

It's raining today which is quite a welcome change. I love long, lazy rainy days. My dog Checkers, on the other hand, isn't so crazy about rain. When we get up in the morning of course she needs to go out. So we go to the back door, the one that leads into the backyard which is HER territory; she takes one look at the sodden deck, the soggy grass and locks her little Bulldog legs. Uh uh. I'm not going out there. Are you crazy? She looks up at me with huge round eyes in stubborn determination.

I'm all Come on puppy! Let's go! Nope. Locked legs.

So I learned this trick long ago. If it's raining out the back door, there's nothing to say that it's raining out the FRONT door. I grab the leash and give the old You wanna go for a walk?! and she's all crazy and hyper and Of course I do! I snap on the leash, pop up the umbrella, and off we go. It takes her to about the end of the driveway to catch on that she's been duped. It works every time.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mouse In Mom's House Part 3

So I go on Rat Patrol this morning, confident I won't find anything as the past couple of days have been all clear. The tricky part is checking all ten glue traps without mom seeing me, because remember, she doesn't know they are there.

Everything looked good until I got to the two traps behind the couch, which is where Mr. Pest Control Guy saw the disgusting mouse droppings. I slid the couch away from the wall and there was only one glue trap. The other had been dragged about 15 inches from the wall and was filled with grey and black RAT HAIR. I'm all like, Oh Crap this is a fricking monster! Panic. A closer inspection revealed that the corner had been nibbled as well so not only did Mr. Rat turn his nose up at my glue trap, he had dinner as well.

I quickly grabbed another glue trap from behind the curtain, all before being discovered by my mother, and placed it under the couch too, put the nibbled one back in place, and put down a box of rat poison.

So the situation now is this: I suspect Mr. Rat might actually be living in my mother's couch, upon which she sits every day and evening. She is probably right now working on her crossword puzzle while Mr. Rat lies cozily in the stuffing of her couch. The floor underneath the couch is a minefield of traps and poison and my mother is oblivious to it all.

This is so gonna come back and bite me. What if he eats the poison, gets drugged and crawls up in her lap. I'm am totally waiting for that phone call. This will so not be funny.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Nifty Lamp

I am loving this lamp that I found stuck in a back corner of a closet at my mother's house (found while I was on Rat Patrol). It doesn't work right now and has the base of a broken light bulb stuck in one of the two sockets but I'm going to take it to a professional and get it fixed up and checked out. I did a little research on it and found it was made by the Colonial Premier Lamp Company in Chicago, probably in the 1930s. It's brass and pewter and quite heavy. Mom said my father used it in college - how cute is that!?

I can't wait to get it all fixed up, polished, and then find the perfect art deco (probably) shade for it. Any suggestions?

Crazy for Crab Cakes

Steve and I went to The Blind Tiger last night for dinner. Every now and then I get an uncontrollable urge for crab cakes and I love the ones at The Blind Tiger. While they aren't as good as home made ones with fresh lump crabmeat, they are definitely worth the trip. I don't think they make the crab cakes on site because they are a little too uniformly round and all the exact same size, but I'm going out on a limb and suggest that they make that decadent crawfish sauce on site. The crawfish sauce is what MAKES the crab cakes! It's got just enough spice to remind you that you're in Louisiana. The sauce is thick and rich, like a roux base. We started out with the most excellent crispy fried mushrooms with a horseradish sauce.

The Blind Tiger was hoppin' last night and it's always good to see a local place doing so well. We got there pretty early but by 6:30 there was a short waiting time. We've never EVER had a bad food experience there but our waitress last night was a little surly. She rushed through our order, spent maybe fifteen seconds at our table, and when the food came out she literally slung it on the table and said, "Enjoy!" over her shoulder as she dashed away. I'd try to make the case for her just being slammed but we had to wait a long time for our check while she stood around visiting with her co-workers and twirling her hair; finally the hostess ran over and got our ticket and tabbed us out. I gave her part of our server's tip.

We struck up a conversation with a couple that was waiting for a table. They were from Arkansas and had come down for dinner. Turns out we were all about the same age and had hit all the same hot spots back in the 70s and 80s. Small world! But, that's one of the reasons I love the Blind Tiger - you meet nice people, share local stories, have awesome food, and support the local restaurant folks!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Oh. My. God.

Listening To....

Mouse In Mom's House Part Two

We have no dead mouse. I met the pest control guy at my mother's house EARLY in the morning. I was honest and told him that we did not actually kill the mouse in the first place and that I'm going to hell for lying to my mother. He gets out his flashlight and starts looking in closets and under sinks and finds mouse droppings under the living room couch. He's like, "Looks like you've got a rat in here." I'm all NO KIDDING? YOU THINK?!!!!!!!! I emptied every garbage and trash bag in the house even though Mr. Pest Control says they don't come in for food (HOW does he know this?)

He gets two sticky traps from his trunk and strategically places them about. He says he can't see anywhere the thing might have come in but suggests I keep an eye on the traps and maybe we'll catch one. Goody.

As soon as he leaves I go to Lowe's and get six more glue traps and put them wherever I might go if I was a mouse. I vacuumed up the disgusting mouse droppings and closed up the house.

Later that evening Steve and I went back over there on Rat Patrol but no dice. No rat. Nada. Probably too early, I thought. Back home later with mom, still on my couch, she has some more bourbon, a few cigarettes, two more aspirin, two benadryl, four chicken gizzards and goes to sleep.

Final day: (or so we hope) Went on Rat Patrol this morning but no stinkin' rat. I have now moved all TEN glue traps in strategic places where my mother won't see them in hopes that I can still catch Mr. Rat. My lie will come back and BITE me if she sees him again tonight. It is NEVER a good thing to lie to your mother (well, almost).

She is back in her house and I am hoping for the best.

(Image credit:

Friday, August 8, 2008

Mouse in Mom's House

So my mother calls me last night in a total panic. She's elderly so this can't be a good thing. She has seen a mouse in her house. This is a big deal. My mother has an incredible phobia about rodents and once moved in with me for three weeks because she saw one in her house. I can't say I blame her because I don't like them either though I have been known to keep a gerbil as a pet (RIP Cheddar!).

The mouse in mom's house required Steve and I to make a trip over there and check things out. I found mom in her bed with the covers pulled up to her chin and the phone in hand. She's clearly in a panic. I said some reassuring things and closed the door. Steve is armed with a broom and I'm armed with a Swifter and we start poking around under beds and in closets looking for the damn mouse. I told him, "Look, you know we're gonna have to lie here, I mean, she'll never stay here again if she thinks it got away." He feels guilty about this and I tell him that I'll tell her, I'm probably going to hell anyway so one more lie won't really matter in the total scheme of things and sometimes a little lie is the kinder thing to do.

After what seems an appropriate amount of time I go in and tell her the mouse has been killed. She's still in quite the panic but makes it to phone where she calls her Pest Control service and leaves two crazed messages on their answering service. Three bourbon & cokes, two aspirin, one benadryl and lots of Chesterfields later, I get her to my house where she slept on my couch (yes, I offered her my bed but she wanted the couch!).

So, the next step is to meet the pest control guy, explain my tiny little lie to him, hope he can find the mouse and we can safely get my poor mother back in her own house. Cross fingers for a dead mouse.

Key Lime Love

So after my going on earlier this week about how vile chain restaurants are, Steve and I went to Outback last night. In my defense, we had a gift card that was begging to be used. I have always liked Outback, despite my dislike of chains, and consider them an exception. On our visit last night I was thrilled to see that they were offering Key Lime Pie for dessert which is one of my all time favorites. I know a lot of people that don't care for it, but I totally love it if it's made properly.

There is a place in Sandestin, Florida called Elephant Walk. It's a fabulous restaurant but when we used to vacation down there with my mom and one of her friends, we'd sit by the pool and sip Key Lime Freezes. It was not-at-all like a margarita but more of a creamy, key lime pie, frozen into a slush with a hefty shot of rum. There was another restaurant that served the most delicious Amberjack sandwiches you can imagine (a big hunk of marinated, grilled amberjack on a toasted bun with coleslaw) and I'd pick one up to go, bring it back to the Elephant Walk and sip on a Key Lime Freeze while eating my sandwich and staring at the fabulous gulf and the white sand. It just doesn't get any better than that.

When I ordered my pie, Steve was all "Hmmm I don't really care for Key Lime Pie, but you go ahead." When it got there he picked at it a bit and then is like "Hey, this is pretty good!" He liked the graham cracker and pecan crust. Steve always eats his pie backwards, starting with the crust first. He made a pretty healthy attack on the pie and believe me, it was enough for us both!

So I'll retract my disdain of chain restraurants, but only a little bit. Only for Outback. And their pie.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


OMG I am trying so hard not to say anything.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

There is nothing I love more than to curl up with a good book and so when summer arrived I was ready to read. As the school year was drawing to a close in May I began stockpiling books and magazines for summer reading. It's just pure luxury to crack open a new book, the pages still stiff, and smelling of fresh ink.

So as you can see, my reading taste ranges far and wide. I started the summer with John Adams because I had just watched the fabulous mini-series and was ashamed that I didn't know more about our second president. While reading about John, I got all curious about Thomas Jefferson and so I picked up the recent Twilight at Monticello. So I spent the first part of the summer deep into historical literature; it was about that time that I picked up McCullough's Truman, but I set it aside for later and in fact am still plodding through that one. I don't like it as much as his Adams book, but am determined to finish it.

One book I totally loved was Eugene Sledge's With The Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa. I learned about Sledge when I watched the Ken Burns documentary The War. Sledge had a natural prose style that made you feel as if he was sitting in the room having a beer with you and telling you old war stories. It's on my re-read list!

Probably my favorite discovery this summer was the two Lalita Tademy books. She writes historical fiction about regional places like Crowley and Natchitoches. That woman is quite a storyteller and had me spellbound for a couple of weeks.

Taking a break from all the heavy stuff I got into some Dorothea Benton Frank and some Anne Rivers Siddons - two very similar authors, but I think Siddons has the edge. Her prose is magical. So descriptive and beautiful sort of like Pat Conroy. Frank is more humorous than Siddons, I think.

I tried to get caught up on my mountain of New Yorker magazines that I can never stay current with. I have stacks of them and of Tin House. I'll get to them!

Right now I'm mid-way through Grisham's The Appeal (it's not summer unless you read at least one John Grisham, right?) and working through the last third of my Truman book. Determined...

My reading tastes run all over the place and I just don't GET people that hate to read. I'm all DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE MISSING?! I just don't understand it. I guess they don't get me either and to be honest, that's okay too! Even if you just read the back of the toothpaste tube, read SOMETHING every once in a while.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Here's to Your Heart!

Food is a subject near and dear to my heart; I love to cook and love to eat! I have a huge cookbook collection, but to be honest, the food I love most is those so southern based recipes that my mom cooked and my grandmother. Bacon grease is usually the first ingredient in those recipes. My mother kept a metal canister on the stove that was filled with bacon grease. In these days when we microwave our bacon, you have to make more of an effort to collect your bacon grease and truly, good southern food just isn't the same without it! Good, cholesterol laden, artery-clogging bacon grease.

So when I came across this article in the NYTimes about Louise's Family Restaurant in Harlem, and their difficult times staying open in these heart-healthy days, it just made me want to boil up some ham hocks and cook some greens or something. By the time I finished reading about their menu (and bacon grease), I was starving.

I hate to see family owned or locally owned business go by the wayside. While all the chain restaurants running up and down our own Youree Drive are good for the economy, I dislike most of them. The saddest day in Shreveport-restaurant-history for me was the day Brocato's closed. Omigod the Snapper Brocato was to die for. My experience with chain restaurants has been mediocre food, uninspired service, and little originality. Give me a local L'Italiano or Monjuni's anyday, and you can keep your Olive Garden.

In solidarity for Louise's Family Restaurant in Harlem, and other local establishments, I encourage you to support the local places when you can! And for your heart, I offer a good, artery-clogging recipe:

Pinto Beans and Ham Hocks
3 smoked hamhocks
2 lbs. dried pinto beans
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 medium chopped onion
Boil hamhocks on high heat for 45 minutes. Add all seasonings except hot sauce and onion. Continue boiling for 20 minutes. Add pinto beans, hot sauce, and onion. Boil on medium heat until beans are done to taste.
Note: To speed up cooking of beans and reduce the gas beans produce, soak beans in cold water overnight or for three hours during the day.
Serve with rice and a meat sidedish. You can also use the hamhocks as your meat sidedish.
(Photo credit: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

More News is Good News

I was really glad to see that the Bossier Press is going to daily publication. I have long been disenchanted with the Shreveport Times (some folks I know call it "The Slimes" but you shall remain nameless) for it's extreme liberal bias and also because it really does not seem to have much real news. In fact, the material in The Living section is often a week behind and I've already read in either the USA Today or another online publication. While I believe in many ways the Times serves its purpose, I think that competition and diversity is a good thing.

I remember when the Shreveport Journal was still around and we had two daily papers in town. You got some diversity there (plus twice the comics!). My dad would get up each morning and read the Times before work and then come home in the evening with the Journal tucked under his arm (crossword puzzle already worked!). Each paper had its own slant and its own perspective. I can't tell you how many people I know that have canceled their Times subscription (myself included, years ago) or threatened to. In fact, some guys in front of Albertsons tried to sell me a subscription last week and I, rude self that I can be, told them "it's a liberal rag!" and declined. They were at least nice.

Shreveport-Bossier is a large enough community to support two newspapers and I'm glad to see the Bossier Press stepping up to the plate. After I've read that paper, small as it may be, I at least feel more in touch with my community. I enjoy the columnists in the Bossier Press as well - maybe it's just my politics. And Jerry Byrd! God love him, nobody can do sports like Jerry Byrd. So good luck Bossier Press, and godspeed!

Help is a Dos Equis Away

Heaven on earth is Nicky's Mexican Restaurant. I've eaten at more Mexican restaurants than I can even remember and consider myself an authority on Mexican food, but hands down this is the best. Especially after spending the morning making your brain explode by a textbook workshop that included introduction to more technology than Bill Gates could ever use. I'm sure I'm going to get the hang of all these new tools that come with my new literature book, and to be honest, most of them are way cool. But until I do, I'm having lunch, and dinner, at Nicky's.

Dog Crack

Checkers has a new love. She used to go crazy for Iams dog treats which I keep in a cookie jar on the kitchen counter. Lately, however, Steve has been buying Schwann’s Dog-Zerts for her, and she goes crazy. She has even begun to recognize the Schwann’s truck when it pulls up. The treats are advertised as a “high-protein snack for your dog” but I think it’s more like crack for dogs.

This evening, Steve went to the freezer and got a Schwann’s ice cream cup (not a dog-zert, a people-zert). Checkers stared him down until we figured out that she thought he was eating her dog treat. I finally got a Dog-Zert out for her and she began to quiver with excitement, hardly able to let me peel the cardboard top off the plastic cup. Once she begins eating the thing, she never comes up for air until it’s done.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Going to the Dogs

Okay, I'm going to get on my soapbox. It's because of this story on KTBS: "An 11-year-old Shreveport boy was injured today when he intervened in a fight between the family Boxer and their new puppy."

It seems like every other day these people are telling us about some poor dog that has to be put to sleep because it is now dangerous. This is certainly a tragic story. Don't get me wrong, I'm deeply sorry that the child was hurt, that the puppy died, and that the Boxer was euthanized. My gripe with this is with the news station.
If you feel like this is REAL news that you must bring to your viewers (and I would question that), please do not show me the film of the animals. I have a real soft spot for dogs and it breaks my heart to see the boxer being led to his death (NOT pictured on this post). Can't you just report the story without the picture of the dog? Show me your interviews, if you must, but don't show me this family pet about to be killed. It smacks of yellow journalism to me. Yes, I know I can quit watching your station, I don't HAVE to look at it.

I really do hope this child recovers from his horrible physical and emotional ordeal. I also hope KTBS reviews their ethics standards.

(Photo credit:

Thoughts on Mount Everest and K2

I was scanning the New York Times online this morning and came across this story. It caught my attention because it reminded me of Into Thin Air, the book by Jon Krakauer of the 1996 disaster on Everest, which led me to think about my favorite podcast ever, The Rest of Everest by Jon Miller. Jon tells the story of Ben Clark, who was attempting to be the youngest American to summit Everest. I won't reveal how it came out, but the podcast is great! Jon went on the climb with Ben (he didn't make the full climb - Jon stayed at Base Camp most of the time, venturing up to the higher camps a few times) and they made a documentary of the adventure called Everest: The Other Side which Jon was kind enough to send to me. The documentary was aired on Dish Network. I use the documentary in my classroom when we read the "Into Thin Air" excerpt in my class. Ben's story is a wonderful story about setting your goals and doing what you have to do to reach them. So much more than a mountain climbing story and such a totally different look at Everest than was portrayed in Krakauer's book!

Looking at the photo of this mountain, I still can't fathom what makes a person say "Hey! I want to climb that!" I am terrified of heights, I hate cold weather, and I hate grueling exercise. So, this is obviously not for me. My students often ask me why someone would want to put their life in such jeopardy. As Ben Clark said, "The depth of the experience will always be greater than the height of the summit." From watching Jon's documentary, it is obvious there is a lot of camaradarie in mountain climbing - it's a real community of climbers up there. In fact, at the end of that documentary and especially the podcast, I felt like I knew those people myself.

Take a few minutes and check out Jon's site, linked above, and especially watch his podcast if you can. Even if you aren't an "Everest person" it's a great look at the culture of Nepal and Tibet, and you will learn something. The photography is over-the-top beautiful.

Photo credit: European Pressphoto Agency

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hoppy Bird Day!

A big 'ol happy birthday shout out to Sheryl; I totally heart you!!!!

The Wailing Wall

This is just a WTF moment for me. It's not just me, it's my neighbor too. Otherwise I might think I'm being overly critical. In fact, my neighbor Donny is the one who raised this eyesore to a new level for me. Ever since he mentioned it to me TWO YEARS AGO it's been a pet peeve. This green WALL, wait, no -- this PARTIALLY green wall is the gateway to my neighborhood. It belongs to a Mexican restaurant at the end of the street. On more than one occasion Donny and I have threatened to sneak down there in the dark of night and paint the whole thing ourselves (and we probably would NOT choose baby-puke green). While we're at it, I might take my hedgeclippers and chop down the tangle of growth at the end of the thing. Jimmy Hoffa could be in there.

Dear Mexican Restaurant: I just wonder if someone could tell me at what moment do you decide, "I'm not going to finish painting this wall." You ran out of paint? Here's my Sears card - go get some more! This has been like this for TWO YEARS! Do you seriously not see this when you drive into the parking lot each day? Does this not reflect in a negative fashion on your restaurant? Do you not CARE what your neighbors think of you? PAINT THE WALL!

Saturday, August 2, 2008


My hollyhocks are blooming! I had heard that they would not bloom the first year, but this is apparently a myth. I totally love hollyhocks. I always admired Sheryl's hollyhocks in Iowa and at Liberty Hall they had gorgeous ones as well. I don't see so many of them around Shreveport, but I'm sure they are here and I am simply unobservant. Hooray for hollyhocks! (And yes, I know they are poisonous to dogs, but unless Checkers can unlock the gate, she can't get to them, and she can't unlock the gate because she doesn't have thumbs.)

Band Banter

I just got my tickets for the Air Force Band of the West concert for August 13. Steve and I take our cheap thrills where we can get them and these free concerts are really a lot of fun. Our first experience with this was last summer when we went to see the 156th Army Band at the Strand. We had dinner at Nanking first and then took balcony seats in the theater for the concert. It was really great! There was lots of patriotic Sousa type marches as well as, and our favorite, a Big Band ensemble. There was a great crowd there. It was Myron Turner’s farewell concert and at the end the band presented him with gifts.

Our second trip was this spring when we went to see the USAF Falconaires perform at a local high school auditorium. We loved this one. They played a LOT of big band music, which we both love. An elderly gentleman sat next to me and his toe was tapping the whole time! They had a female vocalist, TSgt Christina Saalborn, and she was awesome. The best part of that concert was Louis Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” in which the drummer MSgt. Christopher Gaona played an extended drum solo that blew me away. If you sit still to that song, there is something wrong with you; in fact you are probably dead. The band, in a humorous gesture, walked off stage in mock-disgust during the drum solo because it was so long, but it was a class act – they just wanted to highlight MSgt Gaona’s performance.

Recently we saw the 156th Army Band again at the Strand and they added a rock ensemble to the show which was different. Because Steve and I are old-fogeys at heart, we liked the Big Band ensemble better, but it was still fun.

One thing they all do is near the end of the concert, they will play the songs for each military service branch. If you have served you are supposed to stand up when they play your song. There are always lots of Air Force folks around here and lots of them stand up. Lots of Army folks. Very few Coast Guard people here! Steve has a lot of fun with this because he gets to stand up twice (Air Force AND Army) and people look at him funny.

I’m excited to see what the AF Band has in store for us next week! If you want to join us, get your free tickets from The Shreveport Times.