It is the small simple things of life that bring us peace.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Long, long ago in a laundromat far, far away

I always think it odd how something I see can trigger a long forgotten memory. One of the chores I tackled after returning from my road trip was taking a comforter that was too large to fit in my washer and dryer to the laundromat.  I started it to wash and then ran a small errand, returning to amuse myself with my cell phone while the wash finished.  As I put it in the dryer I noticed a lady sitting there watching the dryer spin with her clothes inside.  She was eating an ice cream bar.  I looked around and there was a vending machine at the back of the laundromat that sold ice cream.  I wished that there was a soda machine as I was really thirsty and thought to myself that a cold soft drink would be a nice treat while the comforter dried.  That's when the memory was triggered.   I sat there watching the dryer spin and thinking back to a long, long time ago when I was drinking a cold soft drink in a laundromat. 

Many summers ago I was very young and newly married and had no washer or dryer, or really anything else come to think of it.  So one afternoon each week I had to load the laundry in the car and go to the nearby laundromat. The laundromat wasn't air-conditioned and it was summer time. The lack of air-conditioning in the laundromat didn't really concern me. Our duplex had a window unit air-conditioner in the living room, but it was expensive to run and only barely cooled the living room.  If it got really hot during the afternoon I would go to see my Mother or walk around in one of the malls.   That's just the way it was. 

After I started the various loads of wash I would pull an empty soda bottle out of the laundry supplies and some change from the laundry coins and go next door to the convenience store.  Just to note here, at that time most soft drinks were sold in bottles.  If you bought a bottle or bottles, you either had to pay a deposit on the bottle or turn in an empty bottle.  This was recycling and re-use in an early fashion, but we didn't think of it that way at that time.  I think the deposit was either a nickel or dime and I always had a bottle in the laundry supplies.  Usually I would select a Big Red (a red colored carbonated drink loaded with caffeine that you either despise or love), but sometimes just stuck with a Coca-Cola or a RC.  I would get back to the laundromat just in time to add the liquid fabric softener as the rinse cycle started (dryer sheets were years away).  I would sit and sip the cold drink, enjoying the cool carbonated beverage while my clothes were spinning around.  By the time I finished the drink the last few sips would be warm and my clothes would be just about ready to start folding.  The empty bottle went back into the supplies for the next week.

Drinking a cold drink on a hot afternoon while sitting in a laundromat.  It was a simple thing, long forgotten.  Today, I'm thankful for the washer and dryer that sit in my laundry room, just off the kitchen.  But I'm thankful for the laundromat from long, long ago; experiences like that shaped me into who I am today.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


When I was a Girl Scout and a Girl Scout leader we always did an evaluation after an event.  What did you like, what did you not like, what would you do differently next time were the questions to be answered.  So, while the memory of this spring road trip is fresh on my mind I thought I should also reflect a little before moving on to other topics.

300 year old oak trees at Oak Alley Plantation
It was a good trip, very relaxing just like I intended it to be.  I did not want to have to wake up to an early alarm clock and then rush through each day on a set agenda.  I had a loosely structured plan for each day with a hotel reservation for each evening.  I kept to this relaxed structure throughout the trip.  On the way home I-20 was crawling with Louisiana State Police, so I just backed the cruise control down as there was no need to rush, even on the way home!

I saw just about everything I intended to see and traveled the roads I wanted to travel.  Rarely do I go somewhere and think that there isn't anything else I want to see there, and this trip was no exception.  I have a list of places to go back to on a future trip.  I overlooked two rooms in the Mississippi Old Capitol, no problem I'll catch them next time along with the St. Edward Hotel.  I was enchanted with St. Francisville, put that on the list.  Many buildings in Baton Rouge that I need to check out, too.  And, of course, Vicksburg still waits to be explored.

What would I do different?  Maybe fly over and rent a car, but then again I enjoy being on the road and I wouldn't want to miss gliding over the Atchafalaya either!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spring 2014 Road Trip-final day

Today it was time to head home from the Spring Road Trip.  But before I even got started, so to speak, I had one of those little surprises that I love.

I had originally planned to be gone for two more nights, spending today and tonight in Vicksburg and then coming part of the way home late tomorrow afternoon.  After much debating I eliminated the last two nights, promising myself that Vicksburg would be on my next trip agenda.  Still, as I headed down I-20 this morning toward Vicksburg I wished that I did have time to stop and find a place to make pictures of the bridges.  Little did I know...

I had been determined to only make one trip to the car on this last morning, so to be efficient with the use of my hands I put the bottle of water I had out for the start of the trip in the ice chest with intentions of pulling it out when I got to the car. Yup, I forgot to pull it out and realized it early on.  I kept looking for convenient places to pull over to quickly grab it out, but there just weren't any without getting off on a ramp and then pulling back on.  As I neared the river bridge I was really getting thirsty and when I saw the Welcome Center sign I thought, here we go.  These are usually easy to pull into and pull out.  So when I started down this ramp and realized that the Welcome Center wasn't just along the side of the road I just had to keep going and told myself, "oh well".  As it was, it was just across the highway and not too out of the way.  But my grumbling immediately stopped when I pulled into the parking lot and there right before my eyes were the two bridges!  Immediate delight!

I can understand the advantage that the Confederates had in this high place to observe the river and the opposite shore and why it was vital to the Union to take the city.

Yes, I had to walk up the steps and over the bridge to get to the cannon and the high spot to make pictures.  The railing was almost up to my shoulders and there was a hand rail as well, so I told myself I would not fall and to get over it as I really wanted  pictures!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spring 2014 Road Trip - Day 4

(This post is lengthy, but trust me I did cut it down.  I'll have more details on some of these places in the weeks to come.  I think I have picked up a lot of "blogging fodder" on this trip!)

Camellia in Eudora Welty's garden
Last night I had prepared a list of places to go today.  I've been in and out of Jackson all my life, but this would be the first time I've been on my own and could decide where I wanted to go.  Since I only had one day (at least for now) and I had many places to go I decided that I did need to do some planning.  Plus, I knew that I needed to check the hours that each place would be open! I loosely based my day on the 101 Mississippi Places to See Before You Die list found on the Preservation in Mississippi blog.

My first drive took me down Highway 51 from Ridgeland.  I reminisced about the days before I-55 when we would drive from Alexandria and travel up 51 from Highway 84.  It was tedious, but coming into Jackson meant that usually we would be stopping for gas and sometimes to eat a meal or just pick up something.  On this morning's little journey I passed through the little neighborhood of Fondren, squealing with delight at its quirkiness!  I could hear my Daddy's voice telling the that I needed to have my eyes and my head examined, but I loved it!

I wished fervently that Daddy was in the car because he could have answered all my questions about what is this and what is that.  I think that I passed by the Bailey Jr. High that is on the 101 Places list, but I'm not sure.  I did pass by Millsaps College, one of the institutions that my parents wanted me to consider when choosing a college.  If they had brought me here and showed it to me I probably would have chosen it!

My first stop was the old Capitol Building.  I had been here several times before, but wanted to come back as I always loved it and the exhibits.  As I walked up I remembered that my last visit was in December 2003.  The first plaque that I read spoke of Katrina's damage and subsequent restoration.  Upon entering the building I was greeted by a delightful lady that explained that after Katrina everything was changed.  Now the exhibits focus on the building itself and the events that took place inside.  We had a long conversation (turns out she has a cousin that lives close to me and she had visited San Antonio) about preservation.  Just as in San Antonio, it was a group of ladies that led the fight to preserve the Old Capitol after the New Capitol was built and abandoned the old building.

I enjoyed the exhibits, although I had issues with the open ceilings looking down into the chambers and the entry hall as the railings were very low. A light clicked on when I saw a picture of how the building looked in the 1960's - the stucco had not been reapplied after the 1959 renovation so the red brick was exposed on the second and third floors.  That's it, I thought!  That is why I kept thinking that this building was different when I was a child - it was different!

The Old Capitol Building as seen from East Capitol Street.  Just to note that I've decided that power lines, traffic lights and road construction are part of the permanent landscape, so I don't worry about trying to avoid photographing them!

After a visit to the War Memorial next door my next stops were down East Capitol Street.  The weather was warming up a bit and the day was beautiful.  I always am amazed at the cleanness and pristineness of Jackson. I did not see one piece of trash anywhere and only one vagrant!  Walking along I snapped pictures of various buildings, including the Governor's Mansion and the Lamar Life Building which is under renovation as well as several others I need to research.

I came to St. Andrews Episcopal Cathedral and skirted around the construction to get up to the front steps.  As I went around to the side to make pictures I ran into a lady that asked me if I would like a brochure about the history of the church. Yes, please I answered and then she led me into the sanctuary of the church!  I was totally speechless! And breathless, too!  She chatted for a few minutes and then went on her way.  Two guys were working on some of the wood work and she told one of them to answer any questions I had!  I think she was an angel because I would never have had this joy if I had not run into her!

Douhlie catches a little sun!
This building was completed in 1903.
My next stop was at Eudora Welty's home on nearby Pinehurst Street.  I don't know what the values of these homes are, but it is my kind of neighborhood!  Her house has been on my list of places to visit for years; my parents and I had always tried to squeeze in a visit but it never worked out.  Today it didn't work out for me to make the 3 p.m. tour time because I knew I needed to move on, but I did enjoy the well-planned exhibits in the visitor center in the house next door and purchase some books and a poster with one of her pictures of the ruins of Windsor.  I had picked up a biography several years ago at Square Books in Oxford and thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  As I viewed the exhibit and read the quotes from her and her writing I had to think that she had taken many of my thoughts and turned them into words.  I'm anxious to read the books and get to know her better.

As I walked through the garden I couldn't help but think about her and her mother and the wonderful hours they had spent here.  If I lived in Jackson I would definitely get involved with any group that helps tend this space.  The camellias were still blooming and daffodils were popping up.  Spring is just about to burst forth!

Continuing on I stopped at the Mississippi Crafts Center.  I had always enjoyed visits to the old center many years ago.  I still have a beloved coffee mug that I bought there!  I picked up a pottery centerpiece type plate (photo to come later) and some soaps made here in Mississippi.  There was a little of everything to delight my eyes.  An early supper took the form of catfish at a local restaurant that I love (I only eat catfish at this restaurant, no where else, ever!) and then a drive along the Natchez Trace and the Reservoir.

As I pulled into this scenic overlook I had a sudden realization that I had been here before.  In fact, it was almost 35 years to the day.  The husband and I had taken our almost one-year old son to see my grandparents and we had stopped at this overlook while going up the Trace.  I have a picture of little son and me standing in these trees.  As I pulled away from the overlook I had the strangest, oddest feeling that I'm not sure how to describe.  Time is strange, isn't it?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring 2014 Road Trip - Day 3

This morning I opted for a late start, although part of the delay was due to talking to the boss on the phone for a while!  After filling the car at a Race Track station I went inside to look for a map.  Success!  While it was not as detailed as I would have liked, it was a map of Louisiana and that was what I wanted.

I headed over to Sorrento to The Cajun Village for my first stop.  Now, this is the disadvantage to not planning ahead:  if I had planned ahead I would have known that the shops are closed on Monday.  But I did stroll through the few that were open and enjoyed the grounds, even though the weather had turned cold and windy during the night.
The restaurant was open so I decided to have lunch there. Yes, this is lunch!  Freshly made, steaming hot beignets with a cup of coffee au lait.  It just doesn't get any better than this, trust me!

The afternoon was spent driving, but it was a pleasant drive.  I made a swing through St. Francisville with a note that this was a place to come back to and spend some time.  Charming homes and a darling historic district with shops enticed me to stop, but the temperature had dropped to 40 degrees and I did not have a jacket.  Plus, the afternoon was wearing on.  I drove down the Natchez Trace for a while, but abandoned that plan when I realized that at 50 miles an hour I would not get to Jackson for hours and hours.  But I'll be back.  I've always loved the trace, even in winter.
This picture does not capture the beauty of these trees, but they were a brilliant white that contrasted with the grey afternoon sky.  Sadly, I'm not sure what they are, but they are beautiful by themselves or in a grouping.  I also noticed some dogwoods in places even though I think it is a little early to be seeing them. 
Tonight I'm in Jackson and it just feels good to be here.  A nice Italian meal and wine completed day 3 of the road trip.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spring 2014 Road Trip - Day 2

Today began early, out of the hotel before 8 a.m. and across the river into Baton Rouge.  I found my way down toward the Capitol after a few turns and a glance at the navigation system compass.  Even though it was threatening rain, I threw a little umbrella in the bag and started out exploring.  I quickly realized that I needed to start a list for the next time I come to visit as there were many, many things to see.
Since it was Sunday morning I pretty much had the whole Capitol to myself.  It was amazing!  They don't build 'em like this anymore!
The lobby had beautiful murals and exhibits about different early governors.  Through the open door is the Senate Chamber; the House Chamber is at the opposite end odd of the hall.  Huey P. Long was assassinated inside the Capitol and is buried in the park in front of the Capitol.

I took the elevator up to the observation platform knowing full well that I am terrified of high, open places.  I told myself if it was too much I would just leave.  Let's just say that the wind did not help me feel comfortable so I made a few quick pictures and went back down!  The visibility was poor, so I didn't feel like I missed too much.
Douhlie went through the security check with no problems and went out on the observation platform safely tucked in my purse.  Good dog!

I visited a few more spots quickly and then drove down to LSU.  Again, Sunday morning was the perfect time to visit as the access gates were open and unmanned and the campus was quiet. Then it was off to River Road, but due to my lack of planning I was unable to find some of the spots that I wanted to visit.  But Oak Alley was one of the planned stops and I found it easily.  I'm glad I had it on the list, it is a must see.  They have B&B cottages and I will be back to stay in one. 
Lunch at the Oak Alley Plantation restaurant was mighty fine.  I bought a copy of their cookbook to bring home.  It was an enjoyable afternoon walking around the grounds and touring the "Big House".  I spent 2 and a half hours here as it was easy to take everything in without feeling there was too much to see.
Douhlie, leave the tiger alone! 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Spring 2014 Road Trip, Day 1

My goal had been to leave town by 10 a.m.  I had also resolved not to rush on this trip; I rush around all the time, so I felt it is important to just take my time and enjoy the trip.  I have a very loosely planned itinerary, and plan to remain flexible.  So the day started with that in mind.  The dogs and I enjoyed our morning time with coffee on the deck and after I got ready I dropped them off at the kennel.  Headed back home to unload their crate, made a sandwich and cut up an apple for lunch, loaded the car and I was off at 10:15 a.m.   Yippee, road trip here I am!

My first stop was at Buc-ee's in Luling.  If you've never stopped at a Buc-ee's, you need to the next time you see one.  They are amazing.  I got gas, used the immaculately clean restroom, picked up my favorite trail mix (the one with the little yogurt chips!), looked for a map (no luck), and found a little traveling companion.

He seemed like a fitting companion even though he is neither a smooth or long-haired dachshund.  He is just about the size that my dogs were when I picked them up at 8 weeks of age.
The little guy, still wearing his butt-tag, says goodbye to Buc-ee's and sets his sights on I-10 East. Later, as we travelled down the interstate I decided that a good name for him would be Douhlie (a little Cajun variation of Dooley).

I got my wish about taking my time and enjoying the day without rushing around.  It was wet when I left home and threatening to rain (like it really would).  After we got back on the road it started to mist.  By the time I hit Houston it was a soft messy rain that the traffic was kicking up into a sight hindering mess.  There were numerous wrecks to gawk at and wreck debris to avoid for entertainment as I crept through Houston.  Slow traffic and rain continued until I got east of Lake Charles.  I kept reminding myself that this was part of the plan to slow down and relax.  I just wished that it was raining at home and that I was enjoying a raining afternoon there instead of shuffling along with traffic.
I've travelled with Bentley twice to dog shows, and while he has been remarkably well behaved in the hotels he did have to go out for a walk before bed and early the next morning.  Another reason that I'm sure Douhlie will be a great companion is that he does not require potty walks!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Do you have any maps?

This is a question that I've asked several times in the last few days.  I need a paper map, yes an honest to goodness old-fashioned paper map.  The type that you unfold, spread out in front of you, use the place finder (column b, row 3) and figure out where you need to go. 

I'm going on a little road trip (finally) and as I was somewhat belatedly planning my travels this week I realized that I need a paper map.  I know, I know.  I have a navigation system in my car and on my phone, plus in the evenings I will hopefully have internet.  But what happens if I need to consult a map while on the road.  The navigation system has a nice big screen, but it doesn't really show me the whole picture unless I make it terribly small.  Same thing with the phone, although the phone app shows traffic alerts so that is handy.

So off I went on my map quest.  I managed to find local maps, and regional maps. And, a map of the whole United States.  I did not go to one of the large chain bookstores, and they probably would have had a better selection.  I'll see what I find along the way.  Stops to hunt for a map maybe part of my road trip, we'll see!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Saturday morning breakfast

Many years ago a dear, Hispanic co-worker shared this recipe with me.  She had made these for years for her family and I could see why they were a favorite recipe to repeat making.  My family also loved them and I made them frequently.  In previous years I've only made them to take to group gatherings, but Saturday morning I needed something to feed Jaydon, so I made a small batch for us.

The recipe is easy:  Take a can of biscuits (the store brand works great) and cut each biscuit in half.  Put about a tablespoon of fried country sausage and a sliver of cheese on the flattened biscuit  half.  Optional at this point is to add a sliver of a jalapeno or other pepper.  Fold up the biscuit and seal well.  Bake for about 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees or until the biscuit is lightly brown. 

In this case I had already scrambled the sausage and put it in the freezer.  But you can make them with freshly browned sausage and then freeze them.  They heat up very well and they do travel well, too.  Just for the record, they were not a hit with Jaydon.

You can fold them or roll them, but as illustrated in the picture above they do need to be sealed tightly or the cheese seeps out.  These are good by themselves or with scrambled eggs, oatmeal or fruit or anything else!