Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Heckhaven Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

Several years ago my family and I attended a harvest festival at Sam Houston Jones State Park. Music wafted through the trees and crafts entertained the kids – all pretty low-key. What I remember most about the event was a woman who came with several wild birds and animals. I was fascinated by the owls and spoke with her briefly. Her name is Suzy Heck and she runs Heckhaven, a wildlife rehabilitation center south of Lake Charles.

After that festival, Suzy and her organization were always in the back of my mind. I wanted to know more and finally satisfied my curiosity yesterday when Andrew and I went to visit Suzy and her menagerie of injured animals and abandoned babies. What this woman does out of her love for animals is nothing short of amazing.

A young black vulture.

Litters of baby opossums and raccoons, squirrels, foxes, and rabbits, from tiny pink infants the size of your thumb to temperamental adolescents and birds of a myriad of species – wading birds, raptors, owls, many with broken wings or legs or injuries from gun shots or car accidents. Suzy also takes in abandoned exotic pets such as ferrets, chinchillas, reptiles and cockatoos. They are all welcome at her wildlife sanctuary. Many of the animals arrive via Animal Control or the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Some are brought by people who find injured animals in their backyards. Her goal is always to rehabilitate them and release them back to the wild. But if an animal is permanently injured or for some other reason cannot survive on its own, the animal becomes a permanent resident.

Baby opossum.

A very talkative and charming cockatoo. "But he'll bite your finger off," says Suzi.

Suzy does not consider any of the animals, even the permanent residents, as pets. “They’re wild animals. You can’t pet them or snuggle with them.” But I suspect she becomes attached to them (and they to her) nonetheless and she cares for them like family. She does, after all, name the animals, at least the permanent residents. During Hurricane Ike in 2008, her property flooded. Her home filled with three feet of water. Suzy, her elderly mother, and “five dogs, three cats, two raccoons, and a pot belly pig” escaped to the attic. For three days!

Young curious raccoons.

Heckhaven sits on a mere five acres, but the property does not feel overwhelmed by animals. The acutely injured and very young reside in the “hospital” which is the back of her house. She has no idea how many animals live on her property at any given time, but there are hundreds. Over 100 are permanent residents. Ducks, geese, and other wading birds live by the pond. A baby goat, chickens, and other birds hang out in a large fenced-in area beside the house. Many animals such as her treasured golden eagle, several owls, older raccoons, foxes, a monitor lizard, and more live in large enclosures in the back yard. A herd of deer roam the nearby woods. Six peacocks have free rein of the property. And she single-handedly cares for them all! She receives no federal or state funding, but relies primarily on donations from the community.

Calcasieu, the golden eagle. Shoo-shoo, for short.

With the help of several of her permanent residents, 67-year-old Suzy goes on the road locally to festivals and other events, schools, and the Children’s Museum to educate people about ecology, wildlife, and what to do if you encounter a wild animal. (If it is injured, call Animal Control or Wildlife and Fisheries. If it appears to be an abandoned baby, it probably isn’t. The mom is likely nearby, so just leave it alone. If you are certain it is abandoned, call the animal authorities.)

This little guy was brought in by Animal Control while we were there.

Suzy came to Lake Charles from the Dallas area in 1986 and started Heckhaven at that time. She had done some wildlife rehab in Texas, and according to her mother, Suzy has been “doing this all her life.” Only God knows how many animals she has helped over the decades, but she says she takes in approximately 1,000 animals a year.

 Great-horned owls. Rather comical. Reminded us of Laurel and Hardy.

Geese finding shade by the pond.

Heckhaven is a 501c non-profit organization and completely self-supported. Suzy says it is the only wildlife rehab center in southwest Louisiana. The public is welcome to visit the center, but legally they must stay behind the fences. She gladly accepts donations of money, feed, and materials (cage wire, lumber, fencing, roofing, cages and pens). For more information or to make a donation, call 337-477-6129, email, or see her website,

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Shrimp and Jazz Festival

We went to the first annual Southwest Louisiana Shrimp and Jazz Festival this weekend! I love new events that enhance our lake area culture and hold promise for future growth. And I do believe this party has potential! Besides that, Lake Charles can never have enough festivals, right? I mean, what are we up to, 80 by now?

Considering this festival's first year, check out the line-up!

Local saxophone master and Grammy nominee Mickey Smith Jr. headlined the event. He's a fantastic musician. This is a poor quality photo, but check out his website to see better pics and more info.

Food vendors offered boiled shrimp, shrimp fettuccine, and shrimp and grits. I'll have to try that last one next year. I love fresh shrimp!

There were also handmade jewelry and other vendors (including my friend Andrea Beck who makes unique jewelry out of vintage typewriter keys) plus activities for the kids. If you missed it this year, make a point to attend the Shrimp and Jazz Fest next year!

Saturday, June 13, 2015


This is a bit of a different kind of post for me, but you know, it's a rainy day, so the Lake Arthur Regatta plan simply didn't work out. Instead I'm spending the afternoon reading O magazine. A couple months ago, I started receiving Oprah's glossy publication and I have no idea how they got my address. I had not subscribed. I don't read many magazines, but surprisingly, I'm enjoying this. Okay, I'm off-topic already.

Anyway, so I'm flipping through the pages, reading nearly every word because the writing is so beautiful, and I come across a short piece on simple summer cocktails, which piques my attention because I'm currently doing a series about summer cocktails from local upscale watering holes for our local Convention and Visitors Bureau website.

And I'm immediately struck by what I consider to be a curious phenomenon that happens to me in my life with some regularity. If it happens to me, I'm certain it happens to other people as well.

Have you ever stumbled across, experienced, discovered, came in contact with, etc. something, anything, for example a word, object, idea or concept, or even a person that you are absolutely certain you have never ever heard of or seen before in your life, and then within a few days or a week, there it is again! I get the biggest kick out of this. It makes me marvel and laugh. I consider it a phenomenon and I realized today, as far as I am aware, it has no name.

So I decided to give it a name. Seralinguisity.

Here's the seralinguisity I experienced today. Three days ago, I was at Ember Grille and Wine Bar at L'Auberge Casino in Lake Charles doing research for my current assignment, and the wonderful bartender there (Kelly Bistok -- she is amazing) made me one of her fabulous signature cocktails called White Linen. A key ingredient is a spirit called St-Germain elderflower liqueur. I had never heard of that. But it's very nice!

So today I see cocktail recipes in Oprah's magazine (pg 102 of the July issue) and there it is again! St-Germain elderflower liqueur! I laughed. It's seralinguisity!

Or is it just coincidence?

Readers, do you ever experience this amusing phenomenon? Tell me your story.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

National Doughnut Day 2015

In honor of National Doughnut/Donut Day today, I'm reposting my mom and pop donut shop post from 2009. You can read it here.

I don't know about the local donut scene, but the big chains, Dunkin and Krispy Kreme, are giving away free donuts today. Check out this link for details.

Interestingly, neither of these chain stores exist in Lake Charles. With all the fantastic privately owned donut shops in and around town, we don't need the corporate confections!

One of my favorite local donut shops that I had not yet discovered in 2009 is Delicious Donuts on Country Club Rd. They indeed have something akin to the bear claw I mention in my 2009 post. They are also well known for their shrimp and crawfish kolaches and king cakes during Mardi Gras season.

One of my favorite donuts is a raised donut with maple icing. It reminds me of my Grandma Drummer's cinnamon rolls. What is your favorite?

Have a SWEET day!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Lake Charles Yacht Club

Lately here on my blog, I usually write about clubs and organizations that interest me (or potentially my readers), but I am not involved with them. This week, I'm featuring a group that I indeed belong to.

Bob joined the Lake Charles Yacht Club (LCYC) soon after we moved to Louisiana. He had an interest in sailing even while we lived in Pennsylvania, but his hobby back then was limited to reading sailing blogs and magazines, and online boat shopping (aka, dreaming). We bought our sailboat, aptly named About Time, in 2011. She's a Hans Christian 34.

LCYC is an active organization that welcomes anyone with an interest in sailing. During daylight savings time, they meet Wednesdays around 5:00 for racing. They hold regattas and races one or two Saturdays a month. And they host monthly socials. Boat ownership is not required. The club owns several Sunfish and Flying Scots that members are welcome to use. Other members own a wide range of styles and sizes of sailboats -- Hobie Cats, Stilettos (these are both catamarans) and various other boats. They offer both wet and dry slips.

Every year, LCYC offers free sailing lessons to interested persons age 13 and up. And they're not just for kids!

This year's dates are June 1-5, 5:30-7:30 at the LCYC, which sits in the shadow of the I-10 bridge on a spit of land west of Lake Charles' North Beach.

Aerial view of the LCYC
Pre-register by calling Ship to Shore Co at 474-0730 or email Bring a personal flotation device (life jacket), towel, and wear clothing and shoes that can get wet.

Class size is limited so call soon!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Good Time Brewers

I like beer, but I'm rather picky about it and have a very narrow range of brews I appreciate. I'm mostly fond of amber or dark beers with a hint of sweetness -- Michelob Amber Bock, Killian's Red, Penn Dark all work. My current favorite is Alien Amber.

Back when we lived in Pennsylvania, my husband Bob brewed beer as a hobby. He occasionally talks about getting back into this pastime, so we visited the Brew Shop in Lake Charles today.

Southwest Louisiana is home to a very active home beer brewing community. There's even a club of home brewers called the Good Time Brewers, also called Les Brasseurs Bon Ton, because we are, after all, in Louisiana.

The Good Time Brewers meet once a month at various members' homes. These beer connoisseurs bring home brews, have beer tastings, discuss beer types, styles, "notes", brewing methods, upcoming competitions, and they share a meal. There are currently around 40 club members. Membership is by invitation only.

The Brew Shop at 2915 Common St. sells supplies and kits for both beer and wine making.

Ira Sawyer opened his shop in Sulphur in 2008. They moved to the Common St. address last year.

Ira's son Marcus, who works in the shop and is also a club member, says some of the more popular beers among home brewers include milk stouts and pale ales. The club participated in the first annual Louisiana Winter Beer Festival this past February. (Read that post here.)

For more information, call the Brew Shop at 337-656-8849 or check out the Shop's website here, on Facebook, or the Brewers website here.

What's your favorite beer?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Mustangs in Southwest Louisiana (and I mean cars, not horses)

One of my favorite cars is the Mustang. When I was around two years old, my dad had a little red Mustang coupe, and I've loved them ever since. The very first car I owned was this 1976 Mustang. Not their best year, but it was special to me, nonetheless. I was in college; my mom bought it for me from my grandmother for $2000 and a waterbed. It's the only Mustang I ever owned, but I still drool over them. Just a bit.

Bob and I went ga-ga over a photo of a blue Mustang we saw on Facebook recently. Simply put -- they are cool cars!

Did you know Lake Charles has two Mustang Clubs? The Cajun Mustangers have been around for many years. The club meets the first Tuesday of each month at Ryan’s Restaurant on Ryan St. Lake Charles at 6:30. All Mustang enthusiasts are welcome. Owning a Mustang is optional. They enjoy socializing together. They talk about cars and restoration, swap stories, and plan events like "pony rides" (when a group of people travel somewhere together in Mustangs) and car shows.

A newer younger crowd of fans call themselves the Mustangs of Lake Charles. They frequently meet up at Buffalo Wild Wings, Sonic, or Starbucks and then cruise around town in one big long line of Mustangs. They do make a statement!They also do some charity work as a group, raising money for worthy organizations and collecting candy and gifts for kids at holidays. You can find them on Facebook here

What is your favorite car? Are you sentimental about a car you have owned? Have you ever belonged to a car club?