Monday, April 29, 2013


Things around the web I found interesting today:

A Cop's Watch introduces you to PFC Chesty IX,  the newest Marine.

Legal Insurrection on why it is a waste of time to read Politico anymore.

Ann Althouse has some interesting observations from Meet the Press.

The Foundry on Obama's address to Planned Parenthood.  I didn't actually realize that Obama is the first sitting president to address this organization that is responsible for 1 in 4 abortions, but I'm not surprised.

Babalu blog reports on the Cuban prison system; I don't think that was on Beyonce and Jay Z's itinerary.

Doug Ross wants Marco Rubio to know that amnesty is not the answer.  Michelle Malkin also schools Rubio on why the Gang of 8 proposal can't work.

Right on the Left Coast looks at one of the two major companies competing for your Common Core testing dollars.

The Other McCain has an interesting post on Syria - much shorter than the 1,400 word NYT article he references.

Libertarian Republican reports that Sir Winston Churchill will be featured on a new bank note.

Adrienne has a nifty recipe for Spam & Egg breakfast special!  Oh and I liked the Rep. Trey Gowdy video clip on Benghazi; I happened to catch him on Fox this morning also, and I hope he continues on with his push to uncover Benghazi.

Yankee Phil has just blown my diet:  Twinkies are coming back!  I actually like the banana flavored ones.

Fausta points out that the border between Mexico and the United States is not the only immigration problem we should be concerned about.

If you're not keeping up with the Gosnell trial, Pundette is doing the dirty work for you.  It's awful.

Critical Narrative reports on America's growing underground economy.

And finally, here is four minutes of Phil Robertson talking about the importance of family and his new book.

(Photo:  Melrose Plantation, March 2013)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

"She's Kind of a Big Deal..."

Senator Mary Landrieu thinks she is "indispensable":

"Without sounding braggadocios, I'm indispensable in this effort to secure for Louisiana a significant and reliable string of revenue to save our coast," Landrieu, 57, said in an interview. 

She is, of course, referencing her work to save Louisiana's coastline which is important, but she's certainly not the only person to care about, or work for, that.

Senator Landrieu (D) is running for re-election in 2014, after seventeen years in the U.S. Senate.  She has drawn one Republican challenger so far, Rep. Bill Cassidy from Louisiana's sixth congressional district in south-central Louisiana.

Rep. John Fleming has opted out of a challenge saying that he does not want to splinter
Republican support for Rep. Cassidy.

While Senator Landrieu has indeed supported the Keystone pipeline, her voting record is otherwise abysmally liberal.  "Louisiana Purchase Mary" voted FOR Obamacare, FOR the 2009 stimulus bill, AGAINST the repeal of Obamacare,  She has voted FOR gun-control measures and FOR online sales taxes.

While nobody is really "indispensable," Senator Landrieu does seem to think she's "kind of a big deal."

Senator Landrieu might think she's indispensable, but I think it's time she learned that someone else can do her job and better represent Louisiana's values.  Rep. Cassidy's voting record to date is here.  SIGIS will be posting more about Rep. Cassidy's record and accomplishments.

Donate to Rep. Bill Cassidy's campaign and sign up to help.  His website is here.  His Facebook is here.

(H/T:  United Liberty)

Taking a Step Back from the Compass Evaluation System

Good news for Louisiana educators!

The House Education committee passed a bill Wednesday to delay implementation of a key part of Compass, the controversial teacher evaluation tool, for one year. While teachers will still be graded using the tool, the bill prohibits the termination of teachers rated "ineffective" under the Compass rating system until next year. 

The Compass evaluation system has been highly controversial from the beginning.  It was never fully thought out and the bugs were not worked out before it was implemented.  As a result it has been tweaked, changed, and altered throughout this first year.  When careers are on the line (and lawyers likely waiting at bay), it seems makes much more sense to let this first year be a "beta" year, or test year for the system.

Just to give you an idea, this is just a part of the computation formula in grading both teachers and schools:

You see the problem.

Louisiana Educator is giddy over the news, and contends that Compass will remain deeply flawed:

I want to repeat my opinion that the VAM can never be "fixed" because it is based on the incorrect assumption that each teacher's performance is the major determinant of a student's test scores. A few of the opponents of the bill actually repeated the false assertion that the teacher is the major factor in student performance, but most of the committee members are now too well informed to believe this typical reformer rhetoric.

Be sure to check out the "insider stories" on the negotiations at Louisiana Educator, as well.

Education will always be a collaborative effort between the teacher and the parent.  The politicians and reformers can put in place any evaluation system they want to but until parents become involved in the child's education, nothing will change.  The biggest problem with Compass was not that the formula was complicated or that the implementation instructions and evaluation metrics were confusing and inconsistent, but that there was no accountability placed on the parent or even on the student; everything fell to the teacher.

Time to take another look.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Take a Trip to the "Going Green on the Red River" Festival

COUSHATTA:  Steve and I headed down to Coushatta today, daring the rain, for the third annual Going Green on the Red River festival at the Coushatta fairgrounds.  You know you're in rural Louisiana when you can stop and buy raccoon meat at the market.

As I understand it, this is the third year for the festival and it's still growing.  The guy selling boudin told us that this was the best attendance he's seen in the three years he's been there.  The organizers at the Red River Chamber of Commerce worked hard to pull everything together this year and it turned out to be a really nice little festival.

Alas, not everything was perfect!  We knew the day was in trouble when we went by Bailey's for our favorite greasy hamburgers and it was closed.  The sign said they were closed due to a family emergency so I'm going to pray hard that everything is okay.  They are nice people there and serve a great burger!  This is what I wanted for lunch:

We were meeting friends Gary and Kay for lunch there before the festival so we had to scramble for an alternate plan, finally deciding just to go on to the fairgrounds and eat at the festival.

That  turned out to be a good plan.  We ended up getting BBQ from Jackson's Bend BBQ at the festival grounds.  I got a sausage plate (so much for the diet) and Steve got a rib plate.  Excellent!

Yes, that's Chicken Feet on the menu.  I took a pass on that.

Steve and Gary clowning around waiting on our food:

I was pretty thrilled to get to hear Micki Fuhrman Milom singing as we walked up to the bandstand today.  I've always loved her voice and she is a sweet, sweet lady.

She was sitting in with Airhart for "Red River Valley":

The art contest winners were announced and there were some happy winners!

One of the bands, Twang Darkly, had some unusual instruments, including a handmade electric gourd:

After lunch and a little music I had to walk around a little.  There was a Kids Zone with a bounce house and other activities to keep them entertained:

This cute fellow was flying his kite:

The rain was holding off so we felt pretty lucky.

This was a popular booth for the kids, too:

Of course I had to shop at the jewelry booth:

Some pretty cool birdhouses caught my eye:

The crowd came and went through the day; this picture made me laugh because the first thing I noticed when I looked at it was all the folks pecking on their cell phones.  This is especially ironic because cell service there was minimal at best.

The day started off with a car contest, a karaoke contest, and a treasure hunt before we got there.

I thought this kid was cute with his little friend perched on the edge of his table:

The Matthew Davidson Band played about 6:00:

Matthew Davidson is a wonderful guitar player, especially for his age, and will go far.   He's a very polite and personable young man, too.  There's a lot to be said for good manners these days!

We were holding out for the headliner Soulfish Blues Band to come on at 9:00 but as luck would have it, storm winds blew in and they had to call the festival before the last two bands came on stage.  Nobody was interested in getting hit by lightning out there.

That lovely blue sky in that picture is nice but to my back was a bank of black, ugly clouds and lots of lightning so we all packed up and moved out.

Storm or not, it was a nice day in Coushatta and we enjoyed the festival.  We will go back next year and watch it grow!  It's a nice, family friendly event that seems to be getting better each year.

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation
Take a Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Oktoberfest at BAFB

Monday, April 22, 2013

Going Green on the Red River

Steve and I will be heading to the grand metropolis of Coushatta this Saturday for their Going Green festival!

They've got a fabulous musical line up!  The Matthew Davidson Band is fabulous!

Why don't you make plans to come join us?

And look!  At 9:00 the Soulfish Blues Band is playing! Woot!

Can't wait!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Input, Please?

Louisiana will fully implement the Common Core State Standards next school year.  As a core class teacher (English II and IV) I've been doing a lot of reading, both pro and con, about the new Common Core standards.

Whether I like them or not, it's my job to fully implement them to the best of my ability.  Therefore, I'm asking for input here.

Look over the recommended novels list below for tenth graders and tell me your initial reaction and please offer any feedback or input if you've got an opinion about any of these works recommended for tenth grade readers:

English II
·         The House of Spirits- Allende
·         The Underdogs-Azuela
·         The Book of Lamentations- Castellanos
·         Like Water for Chocolate- Fuentes
·         One Hundred Years of Solitude- Marquez
·         The Seagull- Chekhov
·         The Inspector-General- Gogol
·         “Master Harold” and the Boys- Fugard
·         The Imposter- Usigli
·         Death and the King’s Horseman- Soyinka
·         King Baabu- Soyinka
·         The Lion and the Jewel- Soyinka
·         Family- Pa Jin
·         Midnight’s Children- Rushdie
·         In Custody- Desai
·         Nectar in a Sieve- Markandaya
·         The God of Small Things- Roy
·         The Sound of Waves- Mishima
·         After Dark- Murakami
·         My Name is Red- Pamuk
·         Things Fall Apart- Achebe
·         The Joys of Motherhood- Emecheta
·         Cry, The Beloved Country- Paton
·         Waiting for Barbarians or Life and Times of Michael K- Coetzee
·         The Thief and the Dogs- Mahfouz
·         So Long a Letter- Ba
·         Martha Quest- Lessing
·         Beirut Blues- al-Shaykh
·         The River Between- Thiong’o
·         The Death of Ivan Ilyich- Tolstoy
·         One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich- Solzhenitsyn
·         A Dead Man’s Memoir- Bulgakov

I'm withholding my comments for now.

Further Reading on Common Core:

Sarah Palin Was a Prophet About Obama's Education Takeover
The Road to a National Curriculum
How Well are American Students Learning?
National Curriculum Plan May Face Challenge
Conservatives Oppose National Standards
School Standards Pushback
Common Core Standards
Obama Team Hijacks Schools' Core Standards
National Cost of Aligning States and Localities to Common Core Standards
"Are You Serious?"  Yep, They Are
Michelle Malkin:  Rotten to the Core Part III
Michelle Malkin:  Rotten to the Core Part I
Michelle Malkin:  Rotten to the Core Part II
Michelle Malkin:  Rotten to the Core Part IV
Louisiana Educator:  Why Common Core Will Be a Disaster...

On the Reading Table

If you're looking for a great legal thriller please be advised that Michael Henry's latest book in the Willie Mitchell Banks series, The Election,  is now available in both paperback and a Kindle version.

In this sixth installment of the series, D.A. Willie Mitchell banks is running, rather reluctantly, for re-election.  During a political event, a young boy goes missing which draws Willie Mitchell into one of his more challenging cases yet.  He must now prosecute a capital murder case with no body, unless the child is found.

I love this novel because it focuses on Willie Mitchell and less on the secret-squirrel activities of his son Jake.  That's not to say I don't like the story lines with Jake, I do; but I have a secret crush on Willie Mitchell.  He's quirky, he's funny, he's purely southern, and he's an honorable man.  He's flawed, but he's human.

Author Michael Henry is gifted at writing dialogue.  I think dialogue is sometimes difficult to write without sounding stilted or forced.  With Henry's novels, you feel like you're sitting in the same room with his characters eavesdropping on a conversation.  While the plot of the missing child is
serious, there are still plenty of jokes and light moments that kept me laughing.

We meet a couple of new characters in this book and while I'm usually averse to change, I liked Cheryl Diamond very much; she comes to Sunshine for the trial after having a psychic vision about the missing boy.  Only Michael Henry can make a beautiful blond psychic in a Lincoln Town Car a sympathetic character!

The town of Sunshine, Mississippi is as southern as they come and Henry seems to have no limit to his ability to pull quirky characters out of the tiny Mississippi Delta town.

Summer reading season is coming up; order all of the Willie Mitchell Banks series to keep you entertained!  You'll fall in love with them.  If you like John Grisham novels, or Michael Connelly, you'll love Michael Henry.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bossier Parish Voters Face a Critical Election

Bossier Parish voters have an important election coming up May 4 and it concerns the future of the entire parish.  The implications are huge.

There are three tax renewals on the ballot May 4.  Note:  these are renewals; these are not new taxes.

Via The Bossier Press Tribune:

Proposition No. 1 is the renewal of a 10-mill property tax for a period of 10 years for the purpose of funding “salaries and benefits for employees” of the Bossier Parish school system. It would begin in 2014, end with the year 2023, and generate an estimated $9.1 million a year. Since the 2003 renewal, this millage has been periodically rolled back to the presently collected 7.54 mills.

Proposition No. 2 is the renewal of a 10-mill property tax for a period of 10 years for the purpose of funding “the improvement, maintenance and operations of public school buildings” in the Parish. If approved it would begin, end and generate the same estimated funding as the Proposition No. 1 renewal. After successive rollbacks since 2003, this millage is presently 7.54 mills. 

Proposition No. 3 is the renewal of a 26.5-mill property tax for a period of 10 years for the purpose of “providing funds for the payment of salaries, and benefits directly related to said salaries, of teachers and other employees of the Parish School System.” If approved, this tax would begin with year 2016 and end with the year 2025, generating an estimated $24.1 million annually. This millage has been rolled back to 20.79 mills.

The schools in Bossier are the success they are because of the support of the voters.  Bossier Parish voters have always supported their school system and, in fact, the schools are one of the main reasons people move to Bossier. 

Last year the district's overall school performance score moved up from a "C" to a "B" with nine schools moving up one letter grade.  (Full disclosure: I teach in Bossier and my school also moved up one letter grade.)  Bossier schools are working hard to improve and to stay abreast of rapidly changing curriculum initiatives and technology demands.  Our schools have implemented programs to increase graduation rates; we also have dual enrollment programs, senior project, robotics programs, credit recovery to aid struggling students, and last year Bossier Schools received a grant to aid students with disabilities.  There are so many really good things going on in Bossier Schools that it's no wonder the parish continues to see increases in enrollment

To continue these success stories it is critical that this tax renewal is approved by the voters.  Without it, every single staff member will take a 12% pay cut.


That's bus drivers, teachers, principals, secretaries...everyone. 

For a principal, that might be $10,000 or $11,000 a year.  Teachers could lose anywhere from $4,000 or $5,000 per year, or more depending on their current pay and experience.  A cut like that would drop our teacher pay from 26th in the state to near the bottom.  Very near the bottom.

If we want to continue to keep quality teachers, administrators, and support personnel in Bossier we must vote to support them.  There are nearby parishes that pay more.  This renewal is not for raises; this is simply to maintain the status quo.

Additionally, with revenue cuts of 12% across the board, consider how much money the parish would lose in commerce; discretionary spending would be cut drastically.

If you're a Bossier resident, please consider voting early; encourage your family and friends to vote in support of our schools. 

If you can't vote early, please turn out for the regular election on May 4.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Not Ready for This

Today my brother brought over three boxes of stuff from Mom's house that he thought I should have, including stacks of these "day by day" journals she started keeping after dad died.

I knew I wasn't ready for this but I opened one from 2007 anyway.

Big mistake.

One day I'll be glad I have these.  Right now is too soon.

Whew.  I thought I was doing ok.

Just keep swimming...

Mozart in the Afternoon

My ears are ringing with the angelic sounds of Mozart's Grand Mass in C Minor.

Steve and I attended the performance today at First United Methodist Church; the First Methodist Chamber Choir, the Centenary College Choir, and orchestra were simply superb.

The story behind this piece of music is fascinating.  The work is unfinished and is believed to have been written by Mozart in celebration of his wedding and also to appease his father with whom Mozart had a difficult relationship.  The piece was written in 1782-1783 and is technically very challenging, but also shows Mozart's creativity.  It's just beautiful.

The choirs were simply angelic in voice and Soprano I Lori Lusted was pitch perfect.  I'm no operatic expert by any means but Miss Lusted's voice was beautiful to hear.

Kudos to Centenary and First Methodist for the free public event.

On the way out Steve and I were behind two of the musicians, one of whom said to his friend, "Wow - four months of work and it's all over, just like that!"

It was worth it, my friend.  Job well done.

A YouTube performance of the Benedictus:

(Photo credit:  Steve and his Blackberry)

(Thanks to Robert Trudeau for the tip on the event.)

Free Chicken Saturday With Concealed Carry Permit

As the 2013 Louisiana legislature prepared to take up several gun regulation proposals, a local fast food fried chicken place has weighed into the debate by offered a free meal to concealed carry holders.

Chicken Express owner Randal Neel says it was the busiest Saturday he's ever had.  Via KSLA:

But it's not just about business. Neel says it's his way of taking a stand as a gun rights advocate, and making a statement as the Louisiana legislature considers more than a dozen bills that have been filed dealing with gun regulations. "It feels really good to be able to stand up for what you believe in."  

Here is the proposed legislation the Louisiana legislature will be considering this session.  Most are geared toward protecting gun rights but a couple are not.  One bill would allow off-duty law enforcement to carry firearms in schools, another in bars; one concerns mental illness regulations, another covers the protection of concealed carry information.  Barbara Norton's bill would make it against the law to have an unsecured weapon in your home.  It always makes me nervous when they want to regulate what I do in my home.

KSLA has video of the free chicken day here.

Of course, a more paranoid person might wonder if DHS is lurking in the parking lot taking pictures of everyone...

Probably not.

(Photo credit:  John Jeter)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Maybe The Best Band in Shreveport Right Now Is...

Steve and I popped over to the Elks club last night to catch a couple of sets by the Soulfish Blues Band; I wrote about them last summer, if you recall.  Almost a year later, they are in fine form, fine voice, and ready to take on the Shreveport music scene.

Shreveport has a long, long history of great music and musicians and there are a lot of great local bands currently playing around town.  We enjoy several of them and catch them when we can.

Let me just say that Soulfish Blues Band is probably one of the best bands playing in Shreveport these days.  If you get an opportunity to see them, go.  You won't be sorry.

Gary Huntsman on lead guitar used to play with Percy Sledge; he's fabulous.  He can play anything.  Bruce Procell on drums is great, Bill Allen on bass guitar (and some vocals) is entertaining with his dry wit as well as his musical skill.  And lead vocalist Julia Dunning will take your breath away.  Her sultry voice and rhythmic dance moves are captivating.

The band clearly has a good time on stage together and work well together.  Between Julia's dance moves, Bill's jokes, and the occasional paternal eye roll by Gary, the band puts on a great show.  I looked up once last night and saw Julia playing with Bill's hair and patting him on the head as he sang.  They have a good time, put on a great show, but are consummate professionals.

They don't play the same old songs everyone else does.  Don't expect to hear "Mustang Sally."  A typical set might include the True Blood theme song, "You and I" by Lady Gaga, "Hear Me" by Sena Ehrhardt (and Julia just CAN'T be still on that one!), "Paris" by Grace Potter, "Start it Up" by Robben Ford, a Bill Allen medley that includes "Wipe Out" and an unimaginable mixture of other hits (but it works!), and of course "Piece of My Heart" by Joplin which Julia just totally owns.

You can catch Soulfish at the Rumble Rally at Festival Plaza on Friday, April 26, and at the Going Green festival in Coushatta Saturday the 27th; they'll be at Sams Town May 9 and  they'll be playing at the American Legion on May 31 the night before the Floatilla and that event is open to the public.

Their website is here.  Facebook page is here.

Here's Grace Potter doing "Paris";  You need to see Soulfish do this one!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Take A Springtime Drive Down the Cane River Heritage Trail

It was a beautiful, clear spring day today so for the first time in months Steve and I took the top down on the Jeep and headed down to Natchitoches for the day.  Natchitoches is simply beautiful in the spring.

We didn't have a solid plan but we did want to eat at our favorite, the Pioneer Pub, and we wanted to drive down the River Road, aka Highway 119.  That's the Natchitoches Heritage Trail and it's a beautiful drive tracking along both sides of the Cane River.

When we arrived we found that the Cane River Thunder Full Throttle Biker Rally was in progress and there were bikes parked all along the river!

I'm not a biker but I can't imagine a more beautiful day for a ride.  They had a really nice turnout it looked like.  

There was live music all day from a variety of bands:

And there were the usual vendors set up selling their leather and accessories.  It looked like most people were sitting by the river enjoying the sun or walking around looking at the bikes:

We went back up the levee to Front Street to see what's new since our last trip in December and found a new antique shop now open.  It's in the same building where The Book Merchant used to be.  It's called, naturally, Front Street Antiques & Collectibles.  Clay Mayeaux is the proprietor there and it's a really nice shop.

When we walked in a couple of guys were playing a quick hand of cards at this table:

I loved these windows:

And I think this sign is awesome:

I wish I knew which property the sign referred to!

We went to Kaffie-Frederick Hardware Store, as we always do.  Kaffie-Frederick is the oldest general store in the state of Louisiana and they have everything, just about.  I've posted pictured from inside the store often; there is always something wonderful to find in there.

I loved these hand made birdhouses with the metal roofs:

They sell those white oyster boots in there, too, which Steve secretly covets.  I know he's going to buy some one of these days.

We were getting hungry so we turned toward The Pioneer Pub for lunch.  In my mind, there is no place better to eat in Natchitoches. The food at The Pub is fresh, consistently good, and it's where the locals hang out.  You can pull up to the bar and choose from a variety of burgers or sandwiches, nachos, a fabulous ribeye steak, fried catfish, freshly made pizza with a variety of toppings, a large selection of po-boys (including their well known brisket po-boy); there are a large number of beers on tap and plenty of bottled beer.  

I usually go for the alligator.  

And if you don't get a side order of pub fries, you're missing the best, fresh cut, home made fries you've ever had.  Period.  I had fried alligator bites for supper and blackened alligator bites for lunch.  Gator all day long.

Next door to The Pub is the Louisiana Hall of Fame Sports Museum.  I know that there are two sides to this issue and the locals either love this thing or hate it.  I'm on the side of hate it.  It just doesn't fit in with the historic look of Front Street.  I'm no architectural design expert, but I think it's hideous.  I might like it better in another setting.  It just doesn't fit in with the historic district.  I took this picture because I thought the tacky limo was just perfect in front of the building.  

Godawful.  The museum towers over the Pub, which is one of the historic buildings in the district, and completely blocks any view that would be had from the balcony space.  

Meh.  Not a fan.

Anyway, we thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon at The Pub as did many of the bikers in town and the locals who straggled in through the day:

We piled back into the Jeep and drove the Cane River Heritage Trail, which meanders and curves along with the Cane River for about 35 miles.  You can see the river most of the way.  This is the road to take if you want to visit most of the plantations; we toured Oakland plantation about three years ago and we toured Melrose plantation about two years ago.  Today we were just driving.

We stopped at Melrose, though, and walked around a bit.  We went in the gift shop and I bought a couple of things.  It's just a beautiful, peaceful place to stop, sit in a rocking chair, listen to the cows in the pasture or to the birds.  Steve found a rocking chair outside the gift shop, alongside a lady from Texas,  and settled in:

I walked around taking pictures.  

This was the weaving cottage on Melrose:

If you peek in the windows you can see the looms and tools inside.  

Note the construction:

A nice place to sit and take a break and listen to nature:

There was a chattering squirrel in that larger tree who we saw a few minutes later moving her babies to another tree.

The big house itself is beautiful:

And I took pictures from a couple of angles:

I thought this was interesting; it's a concrete slab leaning against one of the live-oak trees.  It's got shards of pottery, dishes and plates in it.  Was it a bench?  I don't know.  It's just sitting there.

The trees on the property are fabulous:

And most of them support an army of ferns:

This picture is the back side of the house and if the ground looks purple that's because it was covered with wisteria petals:

This is the famous Africa House where the Clementine Hunter murals are.

I love the two iron crosses on the back of the big house; I think that's the kitchen area, if memory serves me correctly.

Originally, of course, kitchens were not part of the actual house in plantation homes, but were separate buildings in case of fire.  Melrose has been added to and updated through the years; for example, Cammie Henry added the two hexagonal garconierres and the kitchen wing.

Here is the blog from Melrose; you can see that they are very active in conservation there and have done fabulous work in preserving historic book collections, not only those in the Melrose library, but those from the burned Bayou Folk Museum (aka Kate Chopin house).

When we left Melrose we continued on down the River Road which eventually doubles back around and takes you back into Natchitoches.  Steve and I were both particularly enchanted by this island house in the middle of the river:

Is it a camp?  A home?  I don't know.  But I like it.

I love just driving through the Louisiana landscape.  Today we saw a little of what makes this state so beautiful.  We saw:

Five men parked by the side of Hwy 1 crawfishing in a ditch
Teenaged girls in fussy dresses of hot pink or purple satin, turquoise and silver, and pale yellow having prom pictures made on the scenic banks of the Cane River on Front Street
A wedding about to begin on the lawn of the Steel Magnolia house, music playing and people finding seats
A bride walking down the street fussing with her bouquet, bridesmaids trailing behind her.
A lawn party way down in the country on the river behind a white picket fence with tables and chairs in the yard, crawfish pots and BBQ grills going.  Nicely dressed people were clustered in groups having drinks, laughing and talking enjoying the breeze coming off the water.  They waved as we drove by.
We saw a tiny cemetery just north of Coushatta in the middle of nowhere, and we saw an old, old cemetery near Melrose behind a church where many of the grave stones are written in French.
An abandoned Hanna School with broken windows and walls falling in leaving me to wonder what the inside looks like.
I saw a guy sitting by the side of the river all alone playing his guitar as dusk fell
I saw a squirrel moving her babies to a safer tree; I saw red-wing blackbirds near the bank of the river, and yellow water iris in full bloom.
I saw at least three plantation homes, most within a stones throw of mobile homes or fishing camps.
Guys on riding lawmowers, cutting grass, doing chores, living life.
I saw an old man of the church in a bar drinking juice wearing what looked like monks robes and sandals, a wide brimmed hat on a cord hanging down his back.
A festival in progress, a card game in an antique shop with the door propped open to the day, a cool, quiet church open to anyone who wants to slip in and say a quiet prayer.
I saw an elderly man painting pictures with coffee as paint, and watercolors.
I saw history, the past, the present, and the future.  

I saw all of those things today in just six hours.  How can anyone ever be bored if you just open your eyes to your own backyard?  There is so much to see.

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation
Take a Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Oktoberfest at BAFB