Sunday, November 25, 2018

SIGIS Cyber Monday Shopping Suggestions

Cyber Monday is upon us.  While I do advocate shopping local whenever possible, I am also a shameless participant of online shopping.  And because this blog is a participant in the Amazon Associates program and gets a tiny bit of revenue when you order through my links, I'm going to share some gift suggestions and some of my favorite things with you!


First, I offer four terrific book suggestions. Yes, one of them is mine, but hey, it's a pretty good book! The other three I have read and are among my absolute favorites: Next, curl up under one of these great blankets while you read and stay warm this holiday: Stay warm with a new coffee maker: I have all but eliminated my use of plastic bottles this year; I've been using one of these refillable water bottles every day. As a bonus I have drastically reduced my soda intake. Some of my funky wardrobe favorites: I got this green ruffled jacket this week and I love it so ridiculously much: The animals are never overlooked around here; we recently bought these self-warming thermal pads for the outside cats and they love them. I know a lot of people who won't have an Echo in their house, but honestly we love ours. I have one of the older Echos, but we talk to Alexa all the time. She plays music for us, tells us jokes, gives me news updates, weather updates, and is generally all around useful. And the Ring doorbell? Everyone needs one of those these days: Some of my "must have" products: the L'occitane skin care line has been on my shelf for over a year now and I can't imagine being without it. I love it. The Redkin products for my hair have quickly become favorites as well. When you have fine, limp hair like mine, it needs all the help it can get! The video gamer in our house is hot on the Nintendo Switch these days: I have some favorite non-Amazon shopping sites too. For unique jewelry items checkout Restrung Jewelry out of New Orleans where a portion of the profits are donated to charities like The New Orleans Musician's Assistance Foundation, among others.

I also really like the beautiful work of Bayou Glass Arts Jewelry.  I've purchased some cool, unique pieces from Contina.

For stunning photographic prints and calendars, consider Nikki Sumrow Photography out of Texas.  The Longhorn Calendar is one of my favorites and I have the sunflower prints as well.  (Full disclosure: she is my very talented daughter!)

Have a happy shopping season and please share in the comments any great deals you find out there or suggestions for this post!  I'll keep updating it!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Shop Local in Shreveport: Small Business Saturday

It's Small Business Saturday which means you are encouraged to get out and spend your Christmas shopping dollars in local brick and mortar shops.

Small Business Saturday has been around since about 2010 when American Express first offered their cardholders a small cash incentive to shop locally after the Black Friday extravaganza.

Here, in Shreveport, there are many unique local shopping options.

If you head downtown, there are lots of options, from shops to restaurants:

Downtown Shreveport POP UP Shops at Artspace Shreveport - 710 Texas Street
Hippie Baby- 450 Clyde Fant Parkway
Appli-Ks- 450 Clyde Fant Parkway
Robinson Film Center- 617 Texas Street
Epic Aquaria- 725 Milam
The Agora Borealis- 421 Lake Street
Norsworthy Gallery- 214 Texas Street
Lena's Shoe Gallery- 501 Milam Street

Other downtown businesses offering Small Business Saturday specials include: Martha's Hallmark, On Time Fashion, Bon Temps Coffee Bar, Nicky’s Mexican Restaurant, and Fully Stacked.

Here's a list of some of my favorite shops and restaurants for truly unique gifts:

King Hardware:  you can get everything from home decor to a Yeti here, and if you're looking for gifts with a true Louisiana flavor, this is the shop for you.

Sweet Tee Shreveport: cool nostalgic clothing and other gifts with a local twist.

The Enchanted Garden on Line Avenue is a great shop crammed full with unique gift ideas from ornaments, clothing, candles, and home decor.  It's a great place to find exactly what you didn't realize you needed!

Lewis Gifts is offering store wide discounts today and is a Shreveport classic.

Kings Antiques and More (formerly Kings Ransom) next to Strawns is a fun place to spend the afternoon browsing for not only antiques but unique handmade gifts and even great collectible books!

And nearby is the terrific Shreveport Trading Company in the old Sooto Records building; this is another favorite of mine for antiques, costume jewelry, glassware, and other oddities.

If you like antiques, be sure to check out Timeline Antiques on Line.  I never leave there empty handed.

At Brewniverse you can create your own beer advent calendar!

Don't forget about our local craft breweries, too.  There you can find cool swag for the beer lover or foodie in your life and certainly gift certificates are always welcome!

Obviously my tastes tend to be rather narrow so be sure to  check out Cobalt Chronicles for more local shopping haunts.  As much as I love cyber-Monday for its convenience, I truly do love shopping local and believe in supporting our local businesses.

Happy Shopping!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Take a Trip to the Louisiana Book Festival, 2018

Signing copies of Cane River Bohemia.
The fifteenth annual Louisiana Book Festival was held last weekend and your humble correspondent was honored to be a part of it as one of the presenters for my book Cane River Bohemia.

You know you have reached the surreal when you are signing books fifteen feet away from Donna Brazile who was there signing her new book, Hacks, or riding the elevator at your hotel with the legendary Ernest Gaines. I was fortunate enough to see Mr. Gaines last year at the Books Along the Teche literary festival: he is a gracious gentleman and gifted writer.

My husband and I drove to Baton Rouge Friday afternoon in time to make the author’s party at the State Library of Louisiana that evening. I’ll admit that I did think about Stacy McCain when we drove through Livonia. (You might ask him about that speeding ticket a few years ago!)

The author’s party was fabulous; there was a jazz band and enough superb Louisiana food to feast upon for days: gumbo, boudin balls, crab cakes, shrimp alfredo, bread pudding, etouffee, and of course Abita beer; the food just went on forever.



I met the most fascinating people and added to my “want to read” list in a significant way. I even added a children’s book to my list: Poncho’s Rescue: A Baby Bull and a Big Flood, by Julie Thomas, who was working with the LSU Vet school during the floods of 2016 and was involved with the team who helped save the very sick little animal after his rescue. It’s quite a story!

I ran into the fabulous Mary Ann Wilson who I met last year, also at the Books Along the Teche Literary Festival; she was giving a book talk entitled "Voices from Louisiana: Profiles of Contemporary Writers."  In New Iberia last year she spoke so eloquently on James Lee Burke's Tin Roof Blowdown I had to come home and re-read it.

With Dr. Mary Ann Wilson

I also chased down Karen McManus, author of the popular YA novel, One of Us is Lying, to tell her how much both I and my students love her book. She was very gracious and didn’t seem to mind my gushing fan-girl approach, thankfully.

And of course, I got to visit with my favorite editor, Margaret Lovecraft of LSU Press who made my book so much better than what I envisioned.

With Margaret Lovecraft, LSU Press.

Day two began with a little sightseeing around Baton Rouge; we spent a lot of time on the levee watching the tow boats and barges on the Mississippi River; we toured the old Louisiana State Capitol which is absolutely stunning.

Old Louisiana State Capitol

 The stained glass, kaleidoscope dome is breathtaking. Then we headed over to the Capitol grounds for the festival.

Stained glass dome, Old State Capitol


The Louisiana Book Festival draws about 20,000 people and is one of the top book festivals in the South. This year there were 250 authors either giving talks about their books or participating in panel discussions. There are children’s events and various live music performances as well as food trucks all day long. The book presentations take place in the State Capitol Building in the various House and Senate Committee meeting rooms in thirty-minute intervals and then the authors are shuttled over to the signing tent to sign copies of their books.

 My presentation was one of the last ones of the day and so we had plenty of time to browse the book tents while waiting. We picked up My Brother’s Keeper by Chris Blackwood, which is a true-crime thriller about the 1984 death of Gary Kergan from Crowley, Louisiana. The case went cold and was finally resolved thirty years later and it’s a wild one. Chris sat next to me as we signed books together and she signed our book! We also bought The Sound of Building Coffins by Louis Maistros, the epitome Southern Gothic novel filled with voodoo, quirky characters, and mysterious plot. It’s getting good reviews so I can’t wait to just get lost in this one.

 Louisiana is home to so many terrific and talented authors, I think in part due to the cultural diversity we have in our state. From the southern tip of the state to the far northeastern corner, we are a mĂ©lange of swamps, rice fields, sugar cane and cotton fields, and bustling cities. We are refineries and skyscrapers, blue collar workers and suits. We are the Shreveport Symphony, New Orleans jazz, and Cajun zydeco. We eat boudin, crawfish, alligator, meat pies, and the infamous gumbo. We are fine dining with a river view in Baton Rouge, woodfired pizzas at the craft beer tap room in Arnaudville, and huge homemade burgers in Coushatta, and delicious pies in LeCompte. We are magnolia trees, Spanish moss, azaleas, and cape jasmine. We are Spanish, French, African, Jamaican, Creole, Irish, English, Hispanic, but uniquely American. It is no wonder that Louisiana writers and authors create such a wonderful and diverse collection of material every single year which is celebrated at the Louisiana Book Festival.



Be sure to put it on your calendar for next year: you won’t be sorry!



Sunday, November 4, 2018

Bring Back the Sun

I dislike time changes.

It is, right now, 4:58 p.m., but really it's 5:58 p.m.  It is already dusk outside and the cars driving past my window have their headlights on.

When I go to work at 6:40 (7:40?) in the morning, it will be a little brighter than it was last week, but really, I don't mind driving to work in the dark.  That's a small trade for having a little daylight at the end of the day, after work. 

It turns out that we have an entomologist from New Zealand to blame for daylight saving time; he wanted more daylight hours to go bug hunting.  The Germans adopted the practice during WWI, followed by England, and then the United States in 1918 in an attempt to have more daylight working hours.

Maybe it's just winter and shorter days in general that I dislike.  I need sunshine and light.

I find all this darkness depressing. 

Yes, Christmas is nice.  All those Hallmark movies, the twinkly lights on the Christmas tree, the endless commercialization and pressure to buy things... But the older I get I find Christmas to be hard, sort of sad, and I get weepy and nostalgic.

And those long, nasty days of January and February!  They go on forever!  At least with March there is a little hope of a warm day.

Honestly I'd rather have the warm, balmy, long sunny days where I can work in the yard, walk the dog, plant flowers, and read books in the shade of my magnolia tree. 

It feels like I'm bracing for winter right now, hunkering down ready to wait out these long months of darkness until the sun shines again.  Steel gray days, wet with sleet and cold wind; bare trees, low clouds...I know it's not really that bad; there are plenty of beautiful, crisp winter days so beautiful that your heart wants to break, but, well, I'm just not that kind of girl.  I like the sun.

And in just the few moments that it has taken me to type this it is now full dark. 

Can't we just spring forward, already?