Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

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?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Dallas Arboretum

Last weekend, while Andrew was on spring break and Bob had a few days off for Easter, we drove to Dallas to visit Eric. We had a great time and many fun experiences, but exploring the Dallas Arboretum proved to be one of the highlights of the trip.

With every turn in the path, the gardens delighted our senses. The park is absolutely stunning. Never mind that we were there the day before Easter Sunday -- likely one of the Arboretum's busiest days of the year. But we didn't allow the crowds to detract from our enjoyment.

Sweet-scented wisteria bloomed throughout the garden.

Despite the crowds, there were areas of quiet tranquility.

What is Easter weekend without tulips?!

If you're ever in the Dallas area, don't miss the Arboretum! But may I suggest you go on a Tuesday.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Palm Sunday Tour of Homes 2015

Call me curious, but looking at homes is sheer entertainment for me. So I want to thank the Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society for planning the perfect annual event -- the Palm Sunday Tour of Homes. I experienced the Tour two years ago and wrote this post. This past Sunday was equally enjoyable.

This year was different -- instead of featuring several homes in a single neighborhood, so you can park and then walk from house to house, this year's four featured homes were spread out across the city. But each one was unique and fascinating!

Our first stop was the Ryder Home at 825 Division St., circa 1900. This place wins my prize for the most interesting furnishings. The Ryders collect art and antiques, and their home bursts with color and unusual fun things to look at. And it's a lovely home. My favorite part is the large breezy wraparound porches on both floors. Unlike the tour two years ago where we waited in long lines to see each house, this was the only house where we experienced a line.

Below is the Brennan Home at 1010 Enterprise Blvd. Bob and I have always called it "the purple house." Simple and comfortable, this turn-of-the-last-century home also has wonderful porches -- in addition to the front porch, there is one off the kitchen and one upstairs off the master bedroom that overlook a surprisingly spacious back yard.

The Guilott Home at 4507 Young Lane wins my prize for the quirkiest home on the tour. It is a round house. Truly. When you walk in the front door, the entryway is part of a circular hallway that creates a  ring around a sunken round living room. The kitchen, dining area, three bedrooms, and a powder room sit at angles off the hallway, like spokes on a wheel. It was built in 1964 and was considered a "futuristic" home. Architect Gilbert Spindel called this home design "Geodesica." Only eight of these homes exist in the United States. Adding to the intrigue, the owner has been true to the era and tastefully decorated the home with vintage 1960s furniture and furnishings, right down to the plush orange carpet in the living room.

The grandest home with the biggest wow factor on this year's tour was the Alexander/Dees Home, in Grand Lake. What is most fascinating is that this house was built in Lake Charles around 1890 and moved to Grand Lake, beginning around 1975. They completely deconstructed the home and moved it, piece by piece, rebuilding it over the course of ten years. It's a fabulous home for entertaining.

The oak trees there are amazing.

Bob says the sky blue porch roof confuses wasps and deters nest-building.

In the backyard.

A flock of peacocks freely roams the property.

Can't wait to find out what homes will be on next year's Palm Sunday Tour of Homes!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tickfaw State Park, Springfield, LA

On our way home from Hammond last weekend, we veered south of I-12 to explore Tickfaw State Park in Livingston Parish. What a gem! As we followed the signs down a narrow country road, we were convinced we were lost. It looked like we were going to the middle of nowhere. And then finally, we see the park entrance.

The park is well-maintained and well-used but not crowded; at least not on that particular Sunday. There's a lovely campground and newer-looking cabins, a nature center, playground, a pavilion for ranger talks. And many very nice hiking trails. We strolled along a couple trails, taking in the beauty of Louisiana bayous.

We saw lots of these lizards. Bob says it is a five-lined skink.

Been anywhere beautiful lately?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Exploring the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain

When I lived in Pennsylvania, Bob and I were avid bicyclists and we often rode on rail-trails (recreational trails used for hiking and biking, converted from old train tracks) which are all over the place in the southwest part of the state. I had been wanting to ride the Tammany Trace in Louisiana ever since I first heard about it several years ago. This trail connects the towns of Covington, Abita Springs, Mandeville, Lacombe, and Slidell along the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. According to the website, Tammany Trace is the only rail-trail in the state of Louisiana.

Our son Andrew played in a Wind Symphony concert in nearby Hammond this past weekend, which gave Bob and I the perfect opportunity to dust off the bikes and start pedaling!

Naturally, we wanted to explore the towns along the way. The trail begins (or ends, depending on where you start) in Covington and what a gem of a small town! Full of quaint streets lined with well-kept historical homes and fascinating shops and restaurants. But we were drawn like chicken to scratch to this amazing farmers' market! We could have spent hours at this happening place, but we had miles to go.

Across the street from the market there's a very interesting old cemetery.

Use a GPS to help you find the trail, as the locals don't seem to know where it is (or maybe we were just asking the wrong people). And parking wasn't as easy as we thought it should be, but no worries. Just three miles down the trail and we came to Abita Springs. They have a nice trailhead with a park, museum, and the Abita Brew Pub, which is the original location of Abita Brewery. Not terribly far from the trail, you can tour the Abita Brewery. I can sum up the brewery tour in four words. Crowded. Loud. Free. Beer. The first two words may be attributed to the particular time we went -- Saturday at 2:00, the final tour of the day. Not sure.

The Tammany Trace is a treasure; paved, well-maintained and well-used, at least on a lovely spring Saturday. The local communities plan events at the many parks along the trail. In Abita Springs, there was an Easter egg hunt in progress. Not far from that, there was an event to benefit a Down's Syndrome organization. In Mandeville, we perused a flea market and there was some sort of historical something going on. In between towns, the scenery is lovely. And this time of year, the wisteria and azaleas are in bloom.

Mandeville sits on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, to the east of the causeway. Life there seems to happen along or near the waterfront. We had a fabulous dinner at Rip's on the Lake, touted as "The Best Seafood on the Northshore." Bob and I believe it! I had grouper and he had mahi-mahi. We shared an appetizer of crab cakes. It was one of those meals where you feel sad when it's over.

Bob gazing at sailboats on the water.

Because we aren't in our best biking shape ever, we headed back to Covington after Mandeville (round trip 23 miles). Lacombe and Slidell will have to wait until next time.

On our way home to Lake Charles the next day, we visited Tickfaw State Park. It's a beautiful park! Read about that in my next post.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Love Auction 2015 to Benefit Abraham's Tent

As usual, there are SO many things to do and see this weekend; Banners events, Live at the Lakefront, Lake Charles Civic Ballet's Assemble 2015, Flea Fest . . . but there's an interesting happening you may not have heard of, and it's for a worthy cause.

Love Auction 2015 takes place this Saturday at Lake Charles Toyota, 6-8 p.m. It's a fundraiser to benefit Abrahams's Tent, an organization that feeds the hungry in Lake Charles.

The event is organized by McNeese University student Shakiyla Solomon. She heads a campus ministry called Sixthirtyfive, which is associated with Sale Street Baptist Church.

Many original pieces of artwork have been donated to the auction, plus items and services from local merchants -- lots of gift baskets, golf at LC Country Club, purses, Paul Pettefer's BBQ, and much more.

Dinner will be catered by Mr. Bills Seafood. Entertainment by some McNeese music majors. There is no admission fee, but a donation to Abraham's Tent is expected. And you won't want to miss out on the auction items!