A Big Change for a Small Town…..

For those who have not been raised in the Deep South (yes, it is culturally capitalized) this post may seem a bit odd. If you can find a copy of it, I recommend reading Southern Ladies and Gentlemen by Florence King for a frame of reference. Allowing liquor in the predominantly Baptist realm has always been tricky. Considering the reputation of New Orleans, that may not make much sense, but therein lies one of the unique aspects of Louisiana. Aside from being the only state with parishes instead of counties, there is a definitive regional dividing line between North and South Louisiana. (It happens to be the small town of Lecompte). South is Cajun (I won’t use the other term) with predominantly Catholic influence and party time is fully embraced along with plenty of booze. North, however, is mostly Baptist, (and I mean serious Baptist in my youth), piney woods, and lots of teetotalers. Places like Bossier City and Shreveport (the big cities) were expected to be “wicked” with bars and such. Smaller towns, however, often remained “dry” well past when you would have thought.

Minden is an example. I don’t recall exactly when, but Dixie Inn is the little town that practically adjoins Minden. They decided to vote to go “wet” a number of years ago and for whatever reason, Minden held off. Now, we’re not talking much distance here so if you wanted a cold beer with your meal or a margarita with your Mexican food, it was a short drive. When I was here a few weeks ago, I was startled to go to the Chinese buffet place and see a hand-printed sign that they now had beer and wine (not on Sundays apparently, but that’s a different kind of post). I didn’t inquire as to what happened, but I had also driven past the Roma Italian Bistro (relatively new) on Main Street and thought, hmmm, surely they wouldn’t have an actual Italian place without wine. I popped in this trip to ask the direct question. Yes, I was assured, they not only had wine, but also a bar. A bar?! Hooray, and not surprisingly, that is where I dined last night. Good food, good service, and real, honest-to-goodness wine.

Good Progress, But…..

The good news, and it is good news, is that my father is continuing to make progress in his recovery, but not as quickly as he believes. The therapy team wants to work with him for another 5-6 days. The “up” side to that is the follow-on treatment can then all be at the Assisted Living Facility. That keeps someone from having to take him into appointments. Everyone in the rehab wing is friendly and certainly seems to be dedicated. The food isn’t bad, so that helps, too.

I’m planning to call my cousin tonight that lives about an hour and a half away and see if they will be in on Saturday. Part of why I scheduled to stay three extra days this time was to help transition my father back into the ALF, but since that isn’t going to happen, that leaves me time to head down for the other visit provided anyone will be around. They tend to have lots of events that take them away and this could be just such a weekend. On a completely different subject, in walking around this morning, I saw a red mulberry tree, although the remaining fruit on it was shriveled. It brought back memories of one place where we lived that had two trees and we used to make a terrible mess in eating the berries. They are delicious and do make quite a purplish-red stain when you squish them. I don’t think anyone cultivates them commercially and if not, I’m  not sure why. Maybe they’re prone to disease or something. Peaches and pecans are common orchards in this part of the state – not nearly in the kind of quantity as somewhere like Georgia, yet excellent quality. And pecan trees do grow wonderfully tall with huge spreading limbs.

Traveling Again….

This other unanticipated trip will hopefully close out the unplanned ones for the year. Most people who follow the post are aware I had an extra visit with my dad because of my concerns for his situation, and may or may not be aware I had my brother go visit him which then precipitated my visit a few weeks ago. On 7 May he suffered a mild stroke, but since I was unable to come back over, my brother returned, then my sister and her husband last weekend, and I arrived yesterday around noon. (Yes, the 6:45 a.m. flight did mean getting up earlier than usual.) He is responding well to therapy and the damage from the stroke was quite mild considering how these things can be.

I hope to meet with the therapy team later this morning. In all probability, he’ll be going back to the assisted living facility on Monday, although he feels he could be allowed to leave sooner. That’s a good sign as well and I doubt he’ll change his mind no matter what the therapists tell him.

I haven’t checked the weather forecast for the next few days, but I did just verify that I have an umbrella in the suitcase and it’s warm of course, so that isn’t an issue. I suppose I shouldn’t say, “of course” since I do have friends in other parts of the country who are still looking at snow.

Amazing Talent…..

The event has passed, but somewhere on your calendar, make a note to start checking around next April for the 3rd annual Homestead Community Concert Scholarship Showcase. Two years ago, HHC, one of the longstanding members of Homestead Center for the Arts,  (http://homesetadcenterforthearts.com) decided to have scholarships for music students. Although the scholarships are limited, for the tens of thousands of dollars it costs to train a talented musician, any external amount is appreciated. Last year, there was 1,2,3 place and two honorable mentions. The turnout was larger this year and the competition so close, someone stepped up and donated funding for a third honorable mention. The ages of these students (must be 18 or younger) ranged from 14 to 18 and their awards and accomplishments to date make you wonder if they ever have time to sleep.

There were three pianists, two cellists, and one violinist; most of whom played classical pieces with one modern jazz selection in the mix. Aside from their talent, their stage presence was impressive and every parent must have felt tremendous pride in watching and listening. I don’t know how many of the students will go on to have careers in music – like all the arts, it’s difficult to make a living as a musician. What I do know is it’s a performance you’ll enjoy if you like classical music. As part of the presentation, there was also a salute to the sacrifices parents make to support their children with both considerable financial requirements and an incredible amount of time with driving to lessons, competitions, etc. The applause that rose for them was well-deserved.

Events like these cannot happen without a lot of hard work and that too gets a big “Thank You” for the volunteers who devote their time.

Quietly Quilting….

I wrote routinely for our community newspaper, the South Dade News Leader for a couple of years. I met a lot of interesting people since my focus was on human interest stories and history of the area. There were plenty of uplifting stories and among them were women who made quilts to send to deployed troops. I had met some of them when doing research for the Small Town Lies quilting series and that led me to hearing about the other project for the troops. That, in turn, led me to learn of the Quilts of Valor Foundation (http://www.qovf.org). It is a national foundation based in Iowa with this as their mission: “The mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.” In some cases they send quilts to hospitals and at other times, make direct presentations to military members selected in special recognition.

Yesterday, I attended a luncheon where six active duty soldiers and one retired naval officer were given quilts and it was a great pleasure to do so. The woman who linked multiple organizations together had created one of the quilts. There are several different quilting groups around and in this situation, there is a “mini-group” within the larger group and they focus on the Quilts for Valor contributions. There are also different organizations that are comprised of retired military and/or those who have a connection to the military. May is Military Appreciation Month and presenting the quilts at the May meeting of the MOAA has now become a tradition. (MOAA is Military Officers Association of America). The soldiers were present (two with their wives) and the retiree was unable to attend, but his wife and daughter were there. A short paragraph was read about each individual; particularly about a combat event in which his actions were notable. The Colonel who was reading the paragraph made an interesting comment before he began about how none of the men there viewed their actions as “special” in the sense they all did what they expected each of them to do under those circumstances. And not surprisingly, none of them chose to speak, but merely to smile and say, “Thank you for this honor.”

I don’t have a photo of the individual quilts, but as you can imagine, there was definitely a “red, white, and blue” theme. Each of the quilts was carefully “packed” inside an “pillowcase” that had also been crated as a holder for it. There were all double-bed/queen size.


It Isn’t Really Funny, But…..

A recent conversation led me to a discussion about having a “crazy branch of the family.” Most families have them and culturally in the South this is a given. One of our particular sayings is, “We don’t hide crazy in the attic. We sit it on the front porch with a drink.” It’s simply accepted that somewhere in the mix there will be a relative who falls into this category. There are, however, variations. Please, please don’t get me wrong. Mental illness is tragic and in general, we struggle to handle it properly in this country. That type of illness is not at all what I am referring to.

The “crazy branch of the family” type probably actually is more eccentricity, and can be amusing from a distance and utterly exasperating up close. On the other hand, it does make for family stories that are sometimes carried down through generations. In all fairness, people who marry into the family should be properly warned before the initial meeting, although that doesn’t always occur. Such unprepared encounters can cause confusion and interesting after-the-fact discussions along the lines of, “Yes dear, _______does believe blue paint on the house will keep “haints” away and does like to explain it in great detail. I forgot to tell you about that. I hope you didn’t try to argue the point.”

Learning to smile politely and nod at appropriate intervals is usually the best approach and you become adept at knowing when you can either safely change the subject or escape the conversation. I’m not going to say that whoever invented caller ID may have been inspired by having such a relative in his or her family, but then again, I wouldn’t be overly surprised if that turned out to be the case.


The Other Two Restaurants….

We have never watched “Vampire Diaries” and all we know about it is it’s filmed in Covington, GA. (So was the TV series, “In the Heat of the Night”.) Mystic Grill is apparently a place where characters in the series hang out. Or it might be where the actors hang out or both. At any rate, it’s not only a restaurant on the town square, it also has an unenclosed rooftop area. Being open air does mean you’re subject to the weather, but it is a lovely view. The indoor space is fun, too, and this is a case where you focus on ambience rather than food. That’s not to say the food isn’t good, merely that it isn’t the proverbial “star of the show”. I’m fine with that and while I have no difficulty in recommending the place, I personally wouldn’t spend a long time waiting to get in.

RL Off the Square was also an interesting find. The RL is for Real Louisiana, complete with gold fleur-de-lis on the sign. Now, they did not have Abita beer which is not precisely a requirement, but it does give pause for thought. On the other hand, the distributors in that area may not carry Abita and RL’s did have some excellent regional craft beers. The menu had appropriate dishes and the crawfish I tried and Hubby’s jambalaya were both quite good. I have no reason to think everything else wouldn’t have been equal. I would be torn if we could only dine in one place and we haven’t yet been to what is supposed to be a nice Italian spot. There are worse things in life than having too many restaurants to choose from.

Second and Third Days….

New Sports Bar in Covington

New Sports Bar in Covington

Ah, we hit a lot of rain (like four hours worth) on the drive home yesterday, but we did manage to not get rained on during the actual visit despite some threatening clouds and a few sprinkles. The situation with my mother-in-law is stable and probably as good as it is going to be under the circumstances. We were impressed with the facility and  I did meet with the director. That does come with a cost, however, and I will say again – go find a place in whatever area you think you might be in to find out the costs for such places to use as a planning factor. (Yes, there is likely to be sticker shock, but this is something you need to know.)

Okay, now on to the “fun” part of the visit. Catching up with family and discovering new (to us) restaurants was thoroughly enjoyable. I will do a separate post later for the two “nice” places (more couple-like), but today I’ll talk about Little Phillies/Tubby Tom’s. Apparently, the one we went to is a second location and we initially popped in for lunch thinking it was just a “sub place”. In actuality it’s a sports bar and grill, thus the Tubby Tom’s part. We highly recommend it, although their coleslaw was heavier on the mayo side than I care for. The sandwiches though were excellent and I suspect the rest of the food would be, too. They had a robust choice of beers which to us is a requisite for a sports bar and it’s the correct kind of ambience. The sandwiches are hefty and you either need to come with a good appetite or plan to take some home. Service was friendly and good and we do hope they thrive as a business.

First Full Day of the Visit…..

The visit with my mother-in-law was similar to with my dad. We/I now have a clearer picture of what the situation is. She’s in a more robust assisted living facility and they do have a memory care unit. I won’t go into that in this post because I’ll be meeting with the facility director later this morning to get an idea of their structure.

Let’s move on to an interesting idea in new pizza franchises. It’s called Your Pie and the building for the one here is the nicely restored old hardware store that is downtown. The high ceilings mean it is noisy, but the exposed brick walls are great as is the wonderful wood floor. Anyway, the concept is they have a brick oven and you have a choice of pizza, pannini, or salad. The pizza comes in one size (6-inch, I think) and you can upgrade to whole wheat or gluten-free. It’s like being at a Chipotle or Subway. They have some standard pizzas or you can create your own. There is a choice of sauces (you can mix), cheese, and lots of ingredients. I had marinara sauce, roasted tomato pesto, mozzarella, ham, pepperoni, red onions, and banana peppers. There were plenty of other choices. Hubby opted for the BBQ chicken as it was described on their menu. They give you a number on a stand and bring the food when it’s ready. It’s an intriguing idea and certainly not one we were familiar with. I especially like brick oven and wood-fired techniques. (Not that I mind ordinary pizza ovens.)

And Now The Next Trip…..

Family is family and that’s all there is to it. In general, I do not schedule back-to-back trips, but there are times when it can’t be avoided. This is one of those situations. We always spend Thanksgiving in Georgia with my husband’s family, but a crisis with the manuscript (Mystery of the Last Olympian) caused us to have to postpone. We actually intended to go in February and that didn’t work out either. So, even as I was making arrangements to take the unexpected trip to Louisiana last week, my mother-in-law took a bad turn. Although things appear to be under control, my sister-in-law has been doing an incredible amount of work for almost two years now and we needed to come up and at least give some moral support. This also provides us the opportunity to help make some plans for what comes next. I have too recently posted about what we as Baby Boomers should be planning for ourselves, and won’t beat that drum again at this moment.

We will be able to visit with one of the cousins as well and there are a couple of new restaurants opened that we’ve heard are quite good. We popped into Grumpy’s Low Country Seafood Camp last night for catfish. They have a nice, varied menu and several of the restaurants here are not open on Sunday.  They also have a very “hoppy” beer that Hubby likes and after the drive, we didn’t want to linger over a meal. Making it an early evening was the best option.