Monday, December 30, 2013

Betty's RV Park Cult . . . Crawfish Boil

Saturday night the Betty's RV Park Cult headed out to Richard's Seafood Patio in Abbeville for a fabulous crawfish feed.  Betty called around the area to ascertain that, in fact, restaurants would have crawfish on the menu . . . Richard's (pronounced REE-SHARD' - no 's' sound) were, in fact, planning to have the little bugs.  But, you can't make a reservation and the queue starts at 4 for the 5 o'clock opening.  So, we pooled our transportation resources and got in line with only about two groups in front of us.
*Click on photo to enlarge
If you look closely, you'll notice cult members, who are identifiable by their Betty's RV Park black hoodie sweat shirt.  Of course, while waiting we talked and laughed and generally fooled around.  Below is a pic of Tom, retired anesthesiologist from Colorado, now a full-timer with his wife, Ann, and their Basset Hound, Maggie.  His is the absolute BEST tattoo I've ever seen:
After a full hour in the chilly outdoor waiting line, we were herded into the restaurant, single file, and ushered to our table
 Getting this group seated is kind of like herding cats
Sorry for the shine.  The obscured area describes "Drunk Shrimp" boiled in Budweiser, "Wino Shrimp," "Bloody Mary Shrimp" . . . 
 I ordered the 3-pound version with potatoes and corn on the cob sides

Okay, let's get started - Tattoo Tom on the left and Rick on the right
Can she do it?
 Yes, she can!
 Well, that is, with a little left over!
 Finally, after a good hour and a half of effort and fun, each diner gets herded up to the cash register - my dinner was $31.50 with tax and tip.  Then you exit through a door dedicated only to exiting.  As i was paying my bill, at about 6:30, the hostess was informing people on the phone, "Sorry, no more crawfish today"
Want to know more about Louisiana Crawfish?  Click here

Sunday in Lafayette . . .

After bidding farewell to my new friend, Rick from North Carolina, who's heading west into Texas, and all the activities with this lively group at Betty's RV Park I felt an urge to do some shopping therapy in Lafayette - about 20 miles northeast.  Now, mind you, I'm also working diligently on my new Budget program in order to have it ready for lift-off Wednesday morning, so the term 'shopping therapy' has morfed into much-modified verbiage.  

So, after morning 'chores' like coffee and reading blogs, walking Lacy, reading a little more of my new novel and my personal 'toilette' that includes a daily shower (now that I can indulge in that each day with the sewer hook up), I jumped in Petunia and headed all the way(!) to Lafayette, a city of about 123,000, just a hop, skip and a jump from Abbeville.  The first item on the to-do list was to try a restaurant I'd noticed there last week, Cheddars.  I wasn't familiar with what I assume is a chain restaurant.

University of Louisiana, Lafayette,  Ragin' Cajuns 

The Sunday morning brunch crowd had come and gone so I was immediately seated in a nice booth where I could 'people-watch,' one of my favorite pastimes.  Since it was almost noon, I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich, coleslaw (I've loved all the Cajun specialities but had a hankering for what I call plain food) and a coke - I'm not a soft drink person, so the coke was a once a month or so treat.

While enjoying the lunch and the view I decided to head to The Grand theater complex a couple of blocks away, to take in Leonardo Dicaprio's new movie, "The Wolf of Wall Street," the fairly accurately retold story of Jordan Belfort,

the infamous unethical, disreputable, unscrupulous Wall Street trader of the late 20th century.  It's a long movie - 2 hours and 58 minutes - with more use of one particular four letter word than I've ever heard in one film.  I did a little research on the real Mr. Belfort, whose autobiography and screenplay, with Martin Scorsese's direction and Dicaprio's lead make an interesting, albeit dark, portrayal of the man's career.

That took up lots of afternoon, which in turn helped moderate my 'retain therapy' session.  After sitting for 3 hours I ventured into the Acadiana Mall where I purchased a pair of Levi's and a couple of tees; then headed home to rescue my family from the inevitable day of sleep in Floribunda.

Louisiana sunset taken from Petunia heading back to Floribunda in Louisiana Bayou country.  What's a bayou, you ask:

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Avery Island, Louisiana . . . Home of Tabasco Sauce

My new friend, Rick, from North Carolina, and I took a drive to Avery Island, Louisiana, the home of Tabasco Pepper Sauce.  It was a rather dreary and rainy day.  We'd wanted to head out earlier but waited in hopes that the weather would clear up.  No such luck so we took Petunia out for the drive of about 25 miles.  Avery Island is actually a salt dome that's located in Iberia Parish (County), about three miles inland from Vermillion Bay, which in turn opens onto the Gulf of Mexico.

The island was named after the Avery family, who settled there in the 1830s.  But long before the Avery family arrived, American Indians had found that the islands beautiful flora grew over a precious natural resource - a salt dome.  the Indians boiled the briny water, extracted the salt and used it for trade as far away as Texas, Arkansas and Ohio.
Before the Civil War, Edmund McIlhenny joined the Avery family when he married an Avery daughter.  In 1868 he founded the McIlhenny Company, and began manufacturing Tabasco brand pepper sauce.
He patented his sauce recipe in 1870 and Tabasco sauce has been made using the same recipe and process continually since that time.  The McIlhenny family has owned the company since its inception; however, in 2013 the presidency of the company, though still in the family, was assumed by a cousin, Tony Simmons.  He runs the company in the same hands-on fashion the McIlhennys started over 170 years.
There's a $1 per car entrance to the island fee; however, the plant tour and use of the grounds are free.  There are a few residential buildings on the island; I suspect they may be used by employees of the company/  As of 2010 there were about 200 employees.

*Click on the photos to enlarge
We parked next to the Tabasco Country Store, but wanted to visit the plant before heading in to make any purchases!

Here's Rick before we went in for the plant tour with about 20 other visitors
Most of the buildings and walkways are brick.  It was cold and drizzly - we didn't spend 
lots of outdoor time.  

There's a plaque on the front of the plant that confused us when we read it.  I checked online and found that in 2009, McIlhenny became one of just a few U.S. companies to receive a "royal warrant of appointment" that certifies the company as a supplier to Queen Elizabeth II.  McIlhenny is one of about 850 companies around the globe to have been officially designated as a supplier to the queen by such warrants!

Our welcome as we entered the plant
We waited for only a few minutes and then were told the history of the company and were shown a film about the cultivation of the peppers, the process of manufacturing and bottling.  The were not in operation during our visit.  They bottle Monday through Thursday - 70,000 bottles per day
Edmund McIlhenny's 1868 recipe has not changed; he mixed up his own personal pepper sauce with only three ingredients:  fully aged red peppers, salt from Avery Island, and high-quality distilled vinegar.  Many competitors have tried but none has surpassed the original recipe.
Why is it so popular the world over?  The say it's simple:  put it on any food you like, and it'll make you like it more!

Since they weren't bottling today the counter had nothing to count.

After traveling through the plant we went into a small museum of the company's history and saw this demonstration vat in operation.  Essentially, the peppers are picked at the precisely right moment and taken into the plant where they're washed, weighed and placed in used whisky barrels (that have been charred to remove traces of whisky) mixed with salt from their own mines, covered with a wooden top that has holes drilled in it.  Then they cover the wooden top of the barrel with a thick layer of the same salt and let it 'age,' undisturbed for 3 years.  After that fermentation the mash is poured into the vat (above), vinegar is added and the whole is stirred during a 28-day period when it's then ready to be bottled.
Although all the peppers were originally grown right here on Avery Island, only about 30% are grown here now; these plants are mainly used for seed production.  The remaining 70% of the growing process is on pepper farms in Honduras, Costa Rica and Venezuela where the tropical climate makes it possible to harvest all year long.

Here's Rick trying two different flavors of Tabasco ice cream.  We both liked the flavor of Raspberry Chipoltle ice cream.  The JalapeƱo ice cream wasn't as pleasant!
I bought a couple of post cards and some Raspberry Chipoltle Tabasco Sauce for my son and son-in-law - my family's champion hot sauce men!!

After our visit to learn all about Tabasco, we went into New Iberia, LA for a nice lunch.  We've both had lots of Cajun food and were looking for something a little different.  Well, how's this?  BoJangles Sushi?
We had shrimp tempura and gyoza - now that was interesting!  and delicious!

End of 2013 . . . Interesting and Thought-Provoking . . . and . . . A Couple of Bits From Others' Blogs . . .

From "Season's of Grace" and google:

It is my humble opinion that, with all the notoriety Pope Francis is garnering recently, maybe there could be some increased consideration for the idea of Peace on Earth, Goodwill Towards Men 

From one of my very favorite blogs, "Musings," a great new invention:

I love the 'end-of-the-year' recaps and thought-provoking ideas.   You know, there are the best news stories, photos, good deeds.  And, then there are all the recaps of devastating news, often in pictures.  I don't like them but do think they remind us of improvements we can make in our daily thoughts and actions.

Then, there's the recap of celebrities we've lost.  As I watch the list I'm reminded of so many memories from my life; I think you will be, too:
2013 Celebrities Lost

How will you do on an end-of-2013 quiz put together by a Jeopardy Champion . . .
Jeopardy Champion News Quiz

Okay, I'll get back to Cajun happenings when I get more photos uploaded.  Have a nice day.

Day After Christmas - Cajun Style

Just been too busy having fun to write much.  Here's kind of a recap of the last few days

Lacy had a couple of really bad nights with all the celebration noise, but it seems that the fireworks are finished for a few days.  They'll start up again for New Year's Eve.  And, finally, on the third night of boom-booms she's arrived at the point where she's just shivering and shaking, but not going into her catatonic state.  What a relief!

On the 26th, as if we hadn't done enough feasting at our group Christmas dinner, we headed out to Suire's Cajun Restaurant and Grocery for lunch . . .

These Cajun restaurants are essentially very primitive structures and have been here for ages - but what food!  Here's the lunch group:  Wayne and Sharon from Iowa, Jay from Washington, Rick from North Carolina and Marvin, our resident tour guide, from Baton Rouge, LA
It's difficult to get good exterior shots as the building is completely socked in by the cars 
and trucks of the diners!
It's easy to decide what you'd like to order - before entering!
 And, yes it is a grocery store too
 This is the senior Suire sister - of the five sister-owners, she's 58 and has been working here for about 50 years!  Check out the order ticket.  She just keeps writing, adds your name to your order and in a couple of minutes your food is ready

 Yup, they've been written up in The New York Times
Chicken Stew, Cajun style - special of the day.  Check out the peas; they brought back memories of my childhood and my mom's home-canned peas.  The first time I had frozen peas, I thought they were a new vegetable!  The dish is served with real mashed potatoes and gravy, but underneath the stew is enough rice for four diners!  The dessert (the rectangular piece next to the dinner roll) is served with the meal.  Of course, PoBoys are the real Cajun lunch food and there are lots of choices . .  shrimp, crab, chicken, alligator . . . the list goes on.
After lunch, across the road, we noticed this crawfish harvester at work.  The crawfish are 'raised' in rice fields and harvested as they become ready.  I need to do a little research on this Cajun food staple.
We got out to watch him just as he was getting ready to take a lunch break.  He simply turns left and drives his harvester up alongside the house and voila(!), he's home for lunch

After lunch we drove back to Betty's RV Park, where Jay and Marvin worked diligently to hook up my television, which I've not used at all since I moved into Floribunda in July.  The TV is the original installed when the rig was new, i.e. HEAVY and cumbersome.  Well, long story short, it didn't happen, so Marvin loaned me his extra flat-screen TV and I'm working on finding at least some local news channels.  I've truly not missed watching TV other than news, Downton Abbey, History and Nature channels.  But, I surely do appreciate how this team of helpers has come along to work on all my little Floribunda idiosyncrasies!  They're  a great group of friends and I'm having a ball!
This is THE END of this post entry, folks!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Greetings from our house to yours . . .

I was reminded of Guatemala Christmas Eve last evening.  I joined all my Betty's-RV-Park-friends for a Christmas Eve happy hour; when I returned to Floribunda I 'asked' Lacy if she'd like to go out for a walk.  Being the obedient dog she is, she followed me out of the rig; but stood completely still and did not follow any commands -- unusual for her.  I kept saying "Come" but she just stood there.  I couldn't see her clearly in the dark or I would have noticed the expression on her face . . .

All of a sudden, the lightbulb came on; I remembered Christmas in Guatemala with all the fireworks!  She was literally PETRIFIED again last evening.  Cajun fireworks could be heard coming from all directions.  She was almost CATATONIC and couldn't function at all.  I had to lift and carry her back into Floribunda.  She had that blank stare in her eyes and was unable to respond in any way to my voice.  So, I picked her up and we 'went to bed' around seven, where we spent the next 3 hours with her shaking and panting but unaware of my trying to soothe her.  I held her close and pulled at the loose skin on the scruff of her neck (as the mother dog would do to carry her pups) to let her know I would take care of her.  Finally, at about 11:30, about an hour after the fireworks had ceased, she was able to go out for a potty visit.  Then, I woke up about 5 this morning and she was eating her dinner from last night.  That's when I wish I could explain to my pets that it's going to be okay.

The tradition so many places around the world include fireworks; it just doesn't work for Lacy and lots of other animals, either.  I have to make a better effort to remember that tidbit.  
This is Lacy taken last Christmas in California with a real Poodle do.  

This year she's sporting her 'camp' look.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus . . .

From "Seasons of Grace" blog by Kathy Schiffer .....

In 1897 an eight-year-old girl by the name of Virginia O’Hanlon asked her father whether Santa Claus really existed.  Her father—Dr. Philip O’Hanlon, a coroner’s assistant from Manhattan’s Upper West Side—encouraged her to write toThe Sun to ask the question.  “If you see it in The Sun,” he said, “it’s so.”
Francis Church answered Virginia’s letter—and he reached beyond the question to consider the deeper philosophical issue.  His response, titled“Yes,Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” has touched hearts ever since.
In 1998,Virginia’s original letter was appraised on Antiques Roadshow at $20,000 to $30,000.
“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
“Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
“Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now,Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

It's Christmas Eve in Cajun Country

The area of Louisiana, now known as Acadiana, is made up of 22 parishes (that's Cajun for Counties).  It forms a triangle from Lake Charles at the west to Grand Isle at the east.  The Acadians were the largest group to settle in this area from 1765 to 1785; although many other cultures and nationalities settled here, the Acadian culture has become dominant.  It contains bits and pieces of the other nationalities' cultures and has become known as Cajun . . . a derivation of the word Acadian.

Many of us know the legend of the candy cane and about Rudolph guiding Santa's sleigh, but there are some other Christmas traditions that are not very well known; and these are the Cajun Christmas traditions of Louisiana. Cajuns, or people of French Canadian descent who have settled here, came to the state in the 1700s, according to the University of Wisconsin, and with them brought these traditions that Louisianans now hold so deep to their hearts.
* In Louisiana, Santa Claus is called Papa Noel.
* Every year bonfires are lit on the Mississippi River levees to light the way for him.

* The bonfires are believed to have been started two hundred years ago by Catholic priests, who wanted to light the waterways for people to visit their families and friends at Christmas and to find their way to church for midnight mass on Christmas Eve . . .
* According to The New York Times, there is some argument on whether they were originally lit to guide churchgoers to midnight mass or if they were really for Papa Noel.
* The bonfires are lit at 7 P.M. on Christmas Eve so that Papa Noel can find his way to all of the houses in Louisiana throughout the night.
* In some parts of Cajun country, Papa Noel takes a different persona on altogether, and is called Cajun Papa Noel.
Cajun Papa Noel doesn't have eight reindeer; he has eight Alligators that guide his river boat.

* Instead of Rudolph with his red glowing nose to guide Santa while he delivers presents, there is Nicolette, the alligator who has glowing green eyes to guide Papa Noel.
* There is also the Yule Log Cake that many Louisiana families eat on Christmas Eve. The Yule Log Cake or the Buche de Noel came from a French chef, according to The Cake Bible, who instead of carrying on the tradition of burning a Yule Log on Christmas Eve decided that he would come up with a pastry to carry on the tradition instead.
Every year I've tried to have a special session with my grandchildren.  Las year we each made a
 Buche de Noel.  it was quite a project but one we won't easily forget.
Some Yule Logs . . .

* While many people know about Louisiana's Mardi Gras tradition, few know that the beginning of Mardi gras, or Twelfth night, which is twelve days after Christmas, is the end of the Christmas celebrations here, according to America's Byways.
* On twelfth night, Louisianans have King Cake. The King Cake is a cake that has a figurine of baby Jesus baked into it. Whoever gets the baby Jesus gets to buy the King Cake next year.

* In New Orleans and with some Cajun families, the Reveillon dinners which originated in France and mean awakening, according to still are made.  (I participated in a Reveillon Dinner on Christmas Eve in Provence, France when I lived there.  The dinner was comprised of 13 courses, each served on a clean tablecloth - 13 tablecloths, one on top of the next, and 13 desserts.  The use of '13' represents Jesus and His 12 Apostles.)

A menu from Broussards Restaurant

* These dinners were originally made to eat on Christmas Eve after families came back from midnight mass, but now the Reveillon dinners are special menus that are prepared on every night during the holiday season at restaurants throughout New Orleans and Louisiana.

Joyeux Noel!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Betty's RV Park Christmas Carolers

Friday, December 20, 2013

Five days 'til Christmas and all is well.  A large group of RV-campers headed out this morning at 9:30 for a day of Christmas caroling at three separate assisted living facilities.  We had practiced a couple of times and a few of the group had been designated soloists for our 45-minute-long program of lively Christmas caroling.  Our first 'engagement' started at 10; some of us (me) didn't quite have our voices up to their virtuoso best; but the residents seemed to really enjoy the music and sang along with us a good part of the time

After our morning concert we all went to a local Chinese cafeteria-style restaurant.  I'm the San Francisco girl with lots of Chinese food experience, due to our large Chinese population and plethora of regional Chinese restaurants.  So, I kind of wondered when I saw the cafeteria set up.  I needn't have been concerned; the food was excellent with representation of several regional specialties.  The food was freshly made, using traditional ingredients, in a presentation that was appetizing.  I spoke with a couple of the waitresses who informed me that they're all from Taiwan.

After lunch we headed to our second engagement where we were met with a similar enthusiastic and  appreciative audience.  The idea of caroling all day long seemed a little much to me; but when I saw the residents and began singing I've found that I'm thrilled to have been a part of it.  And, as the day went on, our voices responded to the infectious enthusiasm.  At our last call I think we looked and sounded very professional!

These were among the nicest assisted living facilities I've visited, and they were 
really decked out for Christmas 
Our group had been asked to wear red tops.  We 
looked pretty snazzy if I do say myself
Each of these facilities had lovely sitting, conference, crafts and dining rooms.
It was evident that the staffs were interested in their residents and
all the residents appeared to be happy.  After each concert we
 circulated throughout the audiences to give personal wishes for a happy holiday season
After having worked in nursing for the number of years I have, I know how special 
it was for these people to see a group of singers, most just about their ages,
volunteering to participate in their holiday celebration.

And I think I speak for the entire group of carolers when I say that I got so much more out of it than I'd expected.  It's a wonderful experience to go into a new part of the country and feel like I've
given something of myself to the folks I meet
This is not our whole group.  Several of us had taken this time to go behind 
some of the residents to snap some photos

This particular facility is home to 138 residents.  We even had a lovely conversation with 
a lady who is celebrating her 101st birthday today

Merry Christmas to all - the end for today