Friday, September 7, 2012

A Love Story and Sweetness: Abeeya's Bakery

Donna and Ivy
Donna and Ivy met at a club one night where she was helping to wait tables and he was the DJ.   She  grew up and lived in Seattle, Washington and was visiting relatives in Louisiana as she did each summer.  She was supposed to return to Seattle the next day.

 Ivy, a Baton Rouge native, was dazzled by Donna's beauty.   He sent a flower to her during the evening.  He was smitten.  Ivy asked her out for a lunch the next day before her return flight to Seattle.  At the end of the meal, she tore up her plane ticket and the rest is history.  They were married six months later.  Fast forward twenty something years....

Abeeya's Bakery is the place for Sweetness in Zachary, Louisiana.  Donna and Ivy bought a failing business and have turned it into a successful and thriving enterprise  that  showcases  delicious cupcakes, beignets, custom order cakes, biscuits, and many other dessert items including pies and upside-down cakes.

Their entrepenurial spirit was born from adversity.  Ivy suffered a devastating injury, lost his job and they needed to get back on their feet.  They are the parents  of five children (2 biological and 3 adopted) and were about to go under financially when they decided to use their talents, determination, faith in God and an enduring desire to achieve to bring them to a rescue.

The resulting products of the home based business are some of the best tasting baked goods in Zachary, LA.  Abeeya's employs three bakers who are also expert decorators.  The staples include the above mentioned items and very large cupcakes called "Big Azz Cupcakes."  Many of their happy customers come in to the store just to buy those. The ingredients are fresh and the frosting is butter cream. The butter cream is made with real butter and is scrumptious!

The eye appeal of the goodies is such that even the strongest willpower cannot resist them.  The place smells delicious!  On the day of Weekday Rambler's most recent visit, she met Dana and Rachel who are serious about the baking and decorating.  Very impressive, indeed.
Dana and Rachel

The display cases were filled with an assortment of sweets that were irresistible!  The staff likes to experiment with flavors and touts some signature flavors, such as peppermint chocolate cupcakes topped with a peppermint patty candy and raspberry filled/lemon frosted ones.  The most recent creation was a concoction called Snicktastick cake squares.  Sinfully delicious!

For those who don't have a sweet tooth (maybe one in a million people!) there are biscuits, bagels and fresh baked breads.  Wednesday is bread day and one should preorder to be assured of getting the loaf desired.

Lemon/Chocolate Doberge Cake

A favorite item is the traditionally southern Doberge Cake.  These are custom made to order in lemon or chocolate flavors or as a combination of the two.  This complicated dessert is a crown jewel of any Southern bakery.  She also offers wedding, birthday and other special made-to-order cakes.

Abeeya's Bakery Facebook page is one of the best places to see what is available on any given day.  The bakery has an unusual name.  When asked about it she replied that the Spanish word for grandmother is abuela.  Her Texas based grandchildren could not say the word, so they call her Abeeya.  Very charming.

The bakery is not the only fascinating aspect about Donna and Ivy's story.   She hosts a weekly radio show called The Attitude Shift  on Internet radio.  It airs each Wednesday night at 9 pm CST.  Archived episodes can be found at the above link.  She speaks to women in need of hope and healing.  She is the founder of the Broke Wives Club which meets to discuss spiritual, financial and physical problems that women may encounter.

She carries a small link of metal chain in her pocket to remind herself that we are all links in the chain of life. Sometimes one might be the one at the head of the chain pulling another person along in battles with problems and sometimes one might be the one being pulled.  She calls it "the longest tow chain of sisters" that can be imagined.  "Which ever place you are in the chain", she  added,  "the reminder is that we are all linked together for support in our daily lives."

 Donna is not the only media star in the duo.  Ivy created a character called "Daddy-Man"  about which Donna wrote a book.  The Chronicles of Daddy-Man by Donna M. Butler tells of a loving father who realizes he is in competition with Superman for his children's attention and decides to become a super man himself."  The book is available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon where it has received rave reviews.  Daddy-Man has appeared on local television programs and goes on special missions occasionally upon request.  He's a role model for young boys and girls growing up in a difficult world.

Weekday Rambler wanted very much to ask for a recipe, but didn't want Donna to divulge the secret formulas that she has perfected.  The bakery is open from 7:30 to 7 daily and limited hours on weekends. For more details about the only full service, locally owned bakery in Zachary go to the website and find out how to begin "a love affair with Sweetness."  Or better, yet, go by and try it for yourself.  Have baked goods wrapped to take with you or plan to sit a while and enjoy a cup of coffee and some interesting conversation.  You won't be disappointed.

Bananas Foster Big Azz Cupcakes

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Bridge to Friendship

Card games can be traced back to around 1120 in China.  The Chinese, it seems, invented paper.  The Puritans felt that cards were the devil's work and frowned on trying to win at cards.  English Queen Elizabeth the First recognized that her countrymen loved card games and began to tax decks of cards.  The King of Spades is the fanciest of all the cards and the design of that card indicated the "stamp" of the paid tax.  The French began placing the pictures of actual rulers, or past rulers, on the kings, queens and jacks.

The game of Bridge was derived from the game of Whist, supposedly first played in Russia.  The English civil servants who were living in India began to play bridge as a way to pass time while in their "exile" from their mother country. The Italians got into the habit of playing cards as well and their playing cards were works of art.   Lots of history lies in between, but modern Bridge was introduced to New York City around the 1890's.  In 1925, Henry Vanderbilt  was bored on a cruise ship and began to add wagers to bridge games.  Many bridge clubs to this day play for money or for a prize at the end of the bridge "party."

The years of graduate school were a perfect time to learn to play bridge.   It was an inexpensive way to spend some leisure time.  Our wagers were never over twenty five cents per person for the entire evening...hardly a gamble at all!  Our teachers included the elderly aunt and uncle of a fellow grad student and some already learned fellow students.  Dr. and Mrs. Brown hosted several lovely parties for the young folks they were mentoring.  They loved the game and the delicious desserts that were served as we played.  Mrs. Brown was a math instructor at LSU and was a terror in the classroom.  As a hostess, she was the one of the kindest and most gracious women I have known.  Dr. Brown was also a professor at LSU and his garden was filled with hybrid camellia bushes he had grafted them to beautiful results.  Odd, how one remembers such details.  We were lucky to have their niece, Jeannine, as a friend.  I credit her with our introduction to our lifetime love of the game.

Through the years bridge became a favorite way to enjoy friendship and fellowship with like-minded people.  There have been parties with entire meals, ones where popcorn and dessert were served and even all day sessions where each brought a sandwich and the play was not interrupted for eating.  There have been couples groups where husband and wife were partners for the evening and duplicate games with friends known since those grad school days.

It is a thinking game with rules that must be remembered.  Charles Goren, a champion bridge player, wrote a book of rules and most players follow those rules.  The bidding involves communicating with a partner to reveal several things.  The bidding art tells one's partner how many points are between the two, what suits are best, if there is a chance of taking "tricks" and how many can be taken.  An error in bidding can be fatal to the play of the cards.  I have played bridge for over 40 years and I still make those errors.  Learning the intricacies of bidding is an ongoing process.

Playing bridge is like riding a bicycle.  Once learned, it is not forgotten.  People of all ages and backgrounds can sit down to bridge and use the universal language of bidding to play the game.   It is a game of etiquette.  One must remember to "thank his partner" when the "dummy" hand is laid down on the table, even if it is horrific!  One must remain silent during the "play" so as not to interrupt concentration.  "Talking across the table" is also a no-no! There is even a special way to place the shuffled deck on the table so as to keep up with the identity of the next dealer.  However,  one expert player told me once, that "one peek is worth two finesses" if someone is holding his/her hand in an indiscreet way. The biggest rule is:  "A card laid is a card played."  Once the card goes on the table, it cannot be removed.  Serious bridge players want to win the quarters that have been wagered!

After a recent downsizing and moving to a small community, bridge became a vehicle of meeting people and forming new friendships.  Bridge players are always seeking other bridge players.  I was able to find a group of women who shared my love for the game and who included me in their groups that have been established for decades.  It must be understood that retirement has become a time of enjoying hobbies, bridge playing included.  Last week a bridge party and lunch was hosted at our house.  The invitees were residents and a local retirement community with whom I enjoy a monthly game and some other friends met through the game.  One guest is 92 years old and is still an excellent player.

Summer in Louisiana is very hot, so it made sense to have a "party" inside for several hours on a July afternoon.  Invitations were sent and two tables of bridge players (8 ladies) assembled for food and cards.  Choosing to make it elegant with a prettily set table made it extra special for those who took time to attend.  My husband, always a good sport, chaufferred those who no longer drive.  A festive mood was set with a bouquet of fresh flowers from a local supermarket.  The menu included seafood quiche, summer fruit salad, tea biscuits, fig preserves (for the biscuits), peach tea and Lemon Ice Box pie.  Coffee provided a lift during the bridge game that followed the meal.  My Mom's fancy coffee cups made an appearance and the table was set with my "good stuff."

The quiche was a hit!  It was actually an "Impossible Pie" from a Bisquick recipe of many years ago.  That recipe has become a "go to" for lunches served at my table as it can be assembled in part the night before and baked just before serving. It calls for shrimp, but the addition of crab meat is delicious.  The fruit salad can be prepared early if the juice of a lemon is stirred into the bowl to prevent the fruit from turning brown.  Dessert and coffee are served during the bridge playing, so it must be kept simple for the hostess.  A no-bake pie was selected.  Even though she can't remember giving me the recipe, I credit a former colleague and friend, Claudia Fowler, for the pie variation I created.  Her original recipe was Key Lime, but I changed it to lemon.
Since we weren't wagering money, a prize was awarded to the person with the most points at the end of the afternoon. It was a one-of-a-kind necklace purchased from my friend, Pam Pennington Firmin.  Pam's jewelry making hobby produces designs are always a hit and the winner was delighted.

Menu items recipes are below.  You don't have to have a Bridge Party to serve them, as all are crowd pleasers.  Enjoy and if you don't know how to play bridge, you should learn.  It's a great way to spend some quality time with friends, old and new.

Impossible Seafood Pie (my variations of the original)

8 oz. cooked shrimp (boiled in seasoning of choice)
4 oz. white crab meat
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 teaspoon dried basil (I used chopped fresh from our herb garden)
4 oz. shredded Swiss cheese (about 1 cup)
1 1/2 cups milk (I used skim)
3 large eggs
3/4 cup Bisquick baking mix
salt, white pepper to taste

-Heat oven to 400 degrees and spray a 10 inch pie plate with Pam nonstick coating
-Sprinkle seafood, onions, basil and cheese in plate (can be done the night before)
-Place milk, eggs, Bisquick and seasonings in blender and blend for 20 seconds.
-Immediately pour milk mixture into pie plate and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
-Cool for about 5 minutes before cutting into 6 servings.
*Two pies are needed if 8 people are in attendance

Sugar Free Lemon Ice Box Pie

1 tub (or tube) Crystal Light Lemonade mix
2 packages (1 oz.size) fat-free, sugar free instant vanilla pudding mix
3 1/4 cup milk
2 Tablespoons fat free sour cream
Juice of a lemon
Zest of lemon
12 oz. reduced calorie whipped topping (thawed)
2 graham cracker crusts (I make my own and use Equal instead of sugar)

-In a large bowl, stir together the Crystal Light and the pudding
-Add milk and beat with wire whisk until smooth
-Stir in sour cream, lemon and zest of lemon
-Fold in the all but 1 cup of the whipped topping
-Pour into crusts and refrigerate until serving time
-Use reserved whipped topping and a slice of lemon for garnish

Olive is normally my sous chef, but she doesn't play bridge yet, so she decided to go home.  I caught her as she was leaving our backyard to go to her house.  I think she looks cute in the outfit I sewed for her.  It's hard to believe she will be two years old in August!  How time flies.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Bite of the Big Apple

Ten women boarded a 6 a.m. flight in New Orleans.  A few hours later they found themselves in Times Square smack dab in the middle of all the excitement of the Big Apple!  The excitement and the fast pulse of the place guaranteed smiles all around.  Half of the group had never been to New York and the other half were making a return trip.  Adventure awaited each!  My roommates were my sister-in-law and my daughter.  Their company was a guarantee of the fun we would have!

After checking in the Marriott Marquis we boarded the Q train on the Subway for Little Italy and China Town.  We had to have some authentic Italian food and some were pining for some great "knockoff" merchandise we were sure to find.  We decided to try Pepolino which was on the fringe of Little Italy.  The Ravioli of the day and the paninis were divine as was the Prosecco we ordered to toast our trip!  Our waiter spoke broken English mixed with some Italian words.  He said he hadn't been in the states very long.  We weren't sure if it was an act to add to the authenticity of the place or the real deal, but we loved it anyway. He was quite charming.  Imagine his dismay at 10 women asking for separate checks!

 We found the Subway to be the easiest, least expensive and fastest way to get around. It's officially known as MTA and includes trains, buses and the underground system.  The MTA website is very useful to tourists.  There is even a "step by step" guide on how to ride the Subway!   If you can navigate stairs, it is the way to go!  The green "M" signs are everywhere.  You can purchase single rides or a Metrocard with discounted fares that can be "reloaded." Swiping the card is easy and all you have to do is figure out if you are going Uptown or Downtown.  One of the many kindnesses we received was Subway advice from a lady who saw all of us peering at a map!  She saved the day.  Once underground your sense of direction escapes you!  I hope she knew how much we appreciated her telling us which train to board!

The evening's entertainment was "Anything Goes" at the Stephen Sondheim Theater.  The beauty of lodging at the Marriott Marquis is that you can walk to the theater.  Walking in the Times Square area of New York is an experience itself.  It's very pedestrian friendly and safe.  We were treated to Stephanie J. Block's stellar performance of so many Cole Porter favorites.  A highlight of this show is the 12 minute tap dance sequence to the theme song.  We "tapped" our way back to Juniors in Schubert Alley for take out cheesecake.

The outward appearance of Juniors is that of a chain restaurant, but it holds unique surprises.  The cheesecake is famous the world over and it is said that if you ask for the best, you will be directed to Juniors.  Since it was literally right by our hotel, we also feasted on the lavish breakfast they serve.  I have discovered that you can mail order the cheesecakes, so am tempted to do so for some special occasion.  It was that good.  Sorry I didn't get a picture of the cheesecake before three of us ate our fill.  This variety was Red Velvet and was superb!

The next morning some of us opted for shopping and one of us (me) opted to get a little rest and wait for my son to arrive from Boston to attend a matinee performance of Swan Lake  by the American Ballet Theater at Lincoln Center.  Based on advice from frequent theater goers, we chose Family Circle tickets.  These tickets have to be the best kept secret in New York.  They are balcony seats, but the acoustics and arrangement of the theater ensure a wonderful viewing and listening experience.  The price was less than $35 per person.  The experience of seeing a performance in the theater is a must for those who love music.  Many years ago, my husband and I had attended a performance of Rigoletto there and are still talking about the evening we had there.  A favorite memory was sipping champagne at intermission while standing next to the famous Chegall murals.

The performance of Swan Lake made us want to trade in our tap shoes from the night before for ballet slippers.  At one point in the performance, the dancers ceased to look like people and became swans in my sight.  The dazzling performance was breathtaking.  Photography is not allowed during the performance but here is the view from our center seats.  We had tucked opera glasses into our handbags, for closeup views of the dancers.  Get the Family Circle tickets and you won't be disappointed.  Just "being there" to see the raising of the chandeliers just before the curtain goes up is an experience in itself.

After the ballet, we walked across Columbus Circle to Bar Boulud.  This restaurant is considered a casual creation of Chef Daniel Boulud who has restaurants in several large American cities. Son, Greg, had been there before and ordered everything for us.  We marveled at the interesting tastes and presentations.

Bar Boulud is famous for its charcuterie, so we ordered a large sampler of these delights.  We shared a main course and desserts.  Of course we had a bottle of white and a bottle of red wine.  What a unique dinner!  We wanted to eat some things we had never tasted in our home town, so this was the perfect venue to do just that.  This was a family event as my fellow diners were my two children and my sister-in-law.  A rare treat for us to be together.

After saying goodbye to Greg, who had a bus to catch back to Boston, we rushed to the TKTS booth in Times Square (a 3 minute Subway ride from Columbus Circle).  At 7:05 (less than one hour before show time) we were able to purchase half price tickets to "One Man Two Guvnors" starring James Corden who won the Tony for Best Actor this year!   We had never laughed so much!  The play was set in England during the 60's and the references to culture of that time were aplenty.  The almost slapstick comedy interspersed with musical performances and audience participation made for a super show!

Our stay took a somber turn the next morning when we visited the 9/11 Memorial.  Although the plaza was full of people there was a reverence for the site and the victims.  The two reflecting pools are surrounded by marble engraved with names of victims of 9/11 and the 1993 attack on the Twin Towers.  There is an electronic directory of the victims' names if someone wants to find the location of one of the names of the 3000 inscribed there.  A museum on the plaza will open next year.  Surrounding the site is the ongoing construction of the new World Trade Center.  Security is tight.  I felt as though I was in an airport.  Admission to the site is free, but one must make a reservation and have photo identification to enter.  I liked this picture because you can see the construction in the background.

The pools are surrounded by 400 newly planted white oak trees.  These didn't offer much shade, but the numerous benches did offer a place for reflection and viewing.  There is one tree that receives special attention.  It's a pear tree that was planted in the 1970's and is the only tree that survived 9/11.  This Survivor Tree is surrounded by a fence and is supported by cables to ensure its continued growth.  It has been pruned of burnt portions.  One such pruning left a scar in the shape of a horseshoe, the symbol of luck!

Each of the two pools, South and North, is on the site of one of the Towers that fell that awful day.  The 30 feet tall waterfalls were hard to capture of on camera.  The enormity of each was overwhelming, but beautiful and meaningful.  When complete the new tower will be the tallest building in the United States.  The site is one of superlatives...largest tower to be constructed, largest waterfalls and most amazing reverence for the event that changed America forever.

After sampling the offerings of a downtown deli and some retail therapy we boarded the Subway again for a 15 minute ride and visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art on 5th Avenue.  Because it was late afternoon we were not charged the full admission of $25, but instead were asked to make a donation befitting the amount of time we planned to spend there.  That was a bargain as we had only two hours.

Elsa Schiaparelli, L'Officiel, October 1937
Photograph by George Saad
Copyright Les Editions Jalou, L'Officiel
The museum is huge and we had preselected the exhibits we wanted to see.  We included the galleries of the Impressionists and a special exhibit entitled: Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations.  We got to view items of clothing and accessories of the two designers who lived a generation apart and whose designs "channel" each other.  A favorite of mine was the Salvador Dali inspired item by Schiaparelli, a hat that looks like a shoe.  It's a fashion icon and has been much photographed over the years.  There was also a dress that will be in the 2012 Fall lineup for Prada.  The exhibit stated that Schiaparelli emphasized "waist up"  and Prada emphasizes "waist down" in designs. I knew Prada for accessories and was quite surprised and enchanted by the clothing designs as well.  Another treat of the museum visit was the annual Clearance Sale of the Gift Shops.  We were able to purchase posters for fifty cents and books for two dollars!  What a deal....then there was the packing of those items in our carry-on luggage...a challenge to be sure!

Leaving the museum during rush hour became a challenge as the Subway was several blocks away.  We hailed a fact we hailed three cabs who turned us down because they didn't want to get the in the Times Square rush hour traffic.  A car service sedan finally stopped and was willing to take us to the TKTS booth for a reasonable fee.  This was the first time in my traveling history that I was ever turned down by a cab driver for a ride in any city!  Oh, learn and adapt.

We wanted to end our Big Apple experience on a happy note, so we opted for tickets to "Jersey Boys."
Our seats were on the last row of the balcony, but we were there and they were half price!  The amazing thing about the theaters in New York, is that every seat is a good one!  It's all in attitude of the attendee.  "Jersey Boys" chronicles the career of Franki Valley and the Four Seasons performing group.

I certainly hope my fellow theater goers were not annoyed by my toe tapping, seat dancing and singing that ensued!  It seemed everyone immersed in the enjoyment of  hits such as "Sherry Baby" and "Big Girls Don't Cry."
This YouTube link does the show justice with a medley of some of the original hits.  I closed my eyes and was taken back to my youth.  The music is universal in appeal and the show won a Tony for Best Musical its first year out.  They fill the theater each night with adoring fans!

And "What a Night" it was.  The thirty-something travelers selected our post theater dining spot.  It was an Irish Pub.  I can't recall the name of it, but it was on our walking way back to our hotel.  We ate some great pub food and enjoyed some cool libations!  A unique Big Apple experience.

What a time we had.  We endeavored to do as much as we could with our time and experience some new things and we did, indeed.  As the Four Seasons might say: "Oh What a Trip!"  Next morning found us desperately trying to pack our carry-ons.  I have never been able to figure out why it all fits when packing at home and why it seems to "explode" when trying to repack for a flight home!

Meanwhile back in Ztown,  Olive was enjoying some quality time with her Daddy and her Paw Paw Allie.  A favorite activity is feeding Paw Paw's birds.  She is an expert as this is a daily activity.  I hope to take Olive to the Big Apple someday.  I hope she likes it as much as I do.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Talent and Brains-A New Breed of Young Women

I was a teacher and been "in the classroom" for ten years.  With the birth of our first child, I took the maternity leave, found day care and went back to work.  Then the second child arrived and we followed the same routine.  Then it all went foul.  The children were seemingly always sick.  We tried to make it work until one day my husband said:  "You need to stay at home with these kids.  This is not working."  I had never occurred to me to give up my career for which I had carefully planned and studied for.  I even completed a master's degree to earn top pay at my position.  

He was correct, though, so stay at home I did.  For five years I was a stay at home mom.  I took pride at homemaking and rearing the kids.  I had an immaculate home, brilliant children, supper on the table every night and a skinny body (probably from the pace I kept!).  But something was lacking.  

Considering myself an expert seamstress I decided that I could augment our one salary income with my sewing skills.  I typed up a business card of sorts and took it to a duplicator for some copies to be made.  I marched myself to an exclusive local dress shop and proclaimed myself to be the "Queen of Alterations."  Imagine my surprise when a week later I was called to do a hem for someone who needed a dress right away.  For five years, I altered clothing for the shop and for word of mouth customers who needed some help. I never saw the people, but was told that I was altering clothing for the then Governor's wife and all sorts of other influential women.   When our youngest started kindergarten, I started back to my teaching career armed with some valuable lessons of what a "cottage industry" can do.  

Women have for many years found work and income in using their skills offered up to those who needed those skills.  In my childhood there were AVON ladies, ironing ladies, housecleaning ladies, pie bakers (my Mom) and babysitters.  In today's world there is a new breed of young women who have found creative outlets that could also be lucrative.  I have met them all through social media.    Some have turned hobbies into businesses and some have opened businesses to serve the public.  This is not about me, but about the talented young women of today who possess talent and brains and have made a success using both!

With the advent of Etsy and Facebook it is easy to find homemade and personalized goods.  I personally found the women I am going to tell you about on Facebook, but am sure they have done much to promote themselves in other ways, too.  These brilliant young women are the relatives and/or friends of my friends, and I like to support them any way that I can. I admire them so much for having it all! 

First is Annie aka The Swallow's Nest.  Annie is a seamstress and crochet artist.  She makes slipcovers, draperies, window shades, throw pillows and other home items for the home.  She also crochets the best hats.  Her Etsy page is filled with ideas to please almost anyone.  Annie is in Tennessee and works out of her home, but is so busy she has to hire helpers.  She has quite a following and now and then mentions celebrities who have purchased her designs.  I am a fan of her crocheted hats!  She will custom create whatever you would like.  This picture shows two hats Annie created for me and Olive.

Kelly began Whatchawant Design as another cottage industry.  From her Facebook page I gleaned this:  Whatchawant Design is your one stop shop for all things fun, funny, funk, crazy, cool, custom and quite frankly, that you can't live without.  She paints and personalizes the cutest things.  Mugs, lap desks, caddies, lap desks and quirky signs are just a few of her ideas.  She is in Prairieville, Louisiana.  I happen to be the owner of one of her precious mugs that was designed just for me.   

Custom Candy Wreaths is the brainstorm of Christy.  She is a former teacher, now stay at home mom, who turned a craft into a money maker.  She ties colorfully wrapped candies onto shaped wire to make absolutely precious candy wreaths.  You may remember these from Christmas past, but she has found a way to make them all colors and many themes.  She makes wreaths for all the holidays, baby showers, birthday parties and whatever else you can dream up.  Her famous nougat wreaths are known 
in several states!  Custom Candy Wreaths is based in Denham Springs, Louisiana, but she ships! 

Brittany found a talent for another type of wreath.  She uses something called deco mesh to create door wreaths and wall designs.  She also has a full time job, but has turned her hobby into a way to earn extra cash and help those of us who want beautiful wreaths on our door, but are challenged in the creativity department.  Wreath'sby Brittany is her creative way to identify herself. She is making a custom order for me at this time and I have already placed my order for Christmas.  For a small fee she will deliver.  She is in 
Watson, Louisiana.


Jillry is a very successful jewelry designer.  Armed with a Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design, she wanted to have a career at home so she could have a family, too.  Jill has found her nitch in her famous online trunk shows.  The formula is brilliant.  She designs and makes hand beaded jewelry (with her own special touches), takes pictures of them and posts them throughout the given day of the show.  Her clientele of over 3000 simply leave their Paypal address under the picture of the items they wish to purchase.  She gives advance notice of the time and day and securing a Jillry original is akin to winning an Ebay.  Gotta have fast fingers to snag a Jillry accessory!

Michelle took her entrepreneur spirit one step further and rented space to open her own business outside the home.  She designed and created Pretend*Play*Party for children.  It's an interactive, educational play environment for children 0 to 8 years.  For a fee, kids can go there (accompanied by adults) and play to their hearts' content or can have a custom designed birthday party there, too.  There are all sorts of centers including a theater, reading nook, restaurant complete with menus, a castle, a toddler soft spot, a dress up center, a kitchen, an art nook and on and on.  It's become a popular field trip destination.  Pretend*Play*Party is on Range Avenue in Denham Springs, Louisiana.

I also know of some other women who have turned hobbies into money, but they are too busy and don't want any more of their time taken from their families, so I am not mentioning them here.  I will say, however, that one of them bakes the best cakes I have ever tasted.  Her fondant creations are exquisite.  

It's a new breed of women and look out world.  Here they come!  They are homemaking and finding creative outlets that are helpful to others and quite unique.  I applaud them all and am glad to know them.  I feel that a torch has been passed.  Perhaps one of you will be inspired to follow a dream, too.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Favorite Magazine Spurs the Imagination

Mr. Weekday Rambler planted tomatoes this spring.  He planted about a dozen plants in his carefully tended raised beds in the backyard.  The early year activity consisted of enriching the soil and turning it over and over in preparation of the summer fruits it would yield.  Each morning he lovingly watched the progress of his farming attempt.  He tied the plants and "suckered" the shoots.  He used gallons (it seemed) of fertilizer.

Finally the tomatoes appeared.  It so happened that the birds and worms liked them too.  In an effort to win a battle with those creatures, he picked the tomatoes when they were large but green.  They were set on our kitchen counter to ripen.  Finally we were able to try them and share them.  We have enough for a small army.  The first ripe tomatoes had to be used in a really special recipe, so I consulted a favorite  source of inspiration:  Louisiana Cookin' magazine.  It's published bi-monthly and a subscription for one year is $25. It's $25 well spent for the food lovers and cooks among us.  I look forward to its arrival in my mailbox. 

For those not familiar with this publication, it originates in New Orleans, LA and is chocked full of information from chefs of Louisiana restaurants and presents lots of ideas for using food produced in the state.  Seafood and sweet potatoes are often featured.  It's also a great source for cultural information.  A Dining Guide is helpful for those wanting a preview of a restaurant before trying it.   Annually they produce a compilation of their published recipes in the form of a CD that can be ordered from the website.  The website also has many of the recipes that can be printed or downloaded and saved.

A regular department of Louisiana Cookin' is "Reader's Recipe." Once  I submitted a recipe and they published it.  What a thrill it was to see one of my ideas in print.  My recipe was called New Year's Eve Shrimp and it can be found by clicking here.  I didn't get paid, but they sent me a gift certificate to a restaurant!  What fun!

The regular columns in Louisiana Cookin' include information on herbs by Sarah and Trim and Terrific ideas by another one of my favorites, Holly Clegg.  Seasonal Louisiana foods are featured in each issue.  The photography is mouthwatering!  Can you tell that I LOVE this magazine?

The most recent cover is pictured above and I tried the recipe on the cover. It is Crabmeat and Avocado with a Spicy Vinaigrette.  What caught my eye was the layer of tomatoes on the bottom of the stack of ingredients.  I selected the ripest of the harvest and got busy gathering the ingredients.  Since we don't live on the coast, it is not easy to find good fresh lump crabmeat.  A trip to Tony's Seafood in Baton Rouge was in order.  Tony's is Louisiana's largest seafood market and I found just the right product needed for the recipe I wanted to try.

Armed with the crab meat, the ripest avocados I could find and the tomatoes from the backyard, I was able to create a delicious summer supper.   My rendition of it was a little different in appearance, but the flavor was superb.  The recipe in the magazine states that this serves 12, but we had very generous portions and it may have served 3 or 4.  I suppose it can be a starter with the smaller portions, but we enjoyed it as our main course.  For our dinner, we each had a half of an avocado and a whole sliced tomato.  The vinaigrette was a generous portion, so I saved about half of it for another time.

All that was needed was a loaf of hot bread to complete this light meal.  I spent so much time food gathering (three stores) that I forgot to get some bread.  I had a bag of Zapp's Sweet Potato Chips in the pantry, so we had those instead.   Zapp's is another Louisiana company that uses Louisiana products exclusively.  The Sweet Potato Chips were new for us and we enjoyed them immensely.  I recommend them heartily!  I didn't feel too bad about eating these chips since the package advertises they are natural, gluten free, cholesterol free and contain no artificial ingredients or additives.  The best part is that they are produced about 30 miles from our house, so they are very fresh!

And what meal would be complete without a great bottle of wine?  We have found one that we enjoy very much.  It's Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc.  This New Zealand selection has become our "house wine" since it is often available by the case where we shop.  I love the crisp, dry flavor.  I prefer it over the traditional sweet tea that many Southerners consume with their meals.  We keep some chilled at all times.  It's great with food, but stands alone well for a pre dinner aperitif.

Lately my sous chef has been spending her time outside with Mr. Weekday Rambler aka Paw Paw Allie, but I was able to find a recent photo of her that was snapped while she was enjoying some backyard time.   I thought you might like to see how she has grown since last she was seen on the Weekday Rambler.  Pretty soon she will be in the car with me on my "rambles" and in the kitchen to assist with the preparation of our meals that we often enjoy together.  Let me know if you tried the recipe and if you liked it as much as we did.  Happy rambling and cooking!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Time Fails To Dim The Legend That Is ISTROUMA

 Istrouma High School is a public school in Baton Rouge, LA  built on pride and quest for excellence in the classroom and on the athletic field.  According to Wikipedia the school was built to educate the children of the blue collar plant workers.  Some might find that offensive, but we students were oblivious to that characterization as we all came from similar backgrounds.  Our parents were hard workers and we inherited that work ethic to reach our own goals.  The school was founded in 1917 and moved to its present location in the late 50's.  The building is still there, but the composition of the student body evolved such that the State of Louisiana has taken over its management.

Legend has it that Istrouma was a native American word meaning: Red Stick.  The term was later translated to "Baton Rouge" by the French who took over the land.  Nawaganti was the leader of the Istrouma tribe and he led with dignity, bravery, pride and grace.  He fell to the white intruders, but his tribe remained the Istrouma Indians.  The area of the city became known as the area of Istrouma.  The beginning the school alma mater refers to the Indians:

"Here roamed of old the red man.  Here stood his skin teepee.....
Tis Istrouma cried the trees" 

A costumed statue of Nawaganti still stands in the lobby of the school.     Students at Istrouma are affectionately known as Indians even after graduation.  Once an Istrouma Indian, always an Istrouma Indian!  Click here for the Legend in its entirety 

The legacy of Istrouma is great.  Its alums are scattered all over the world in all walks of life.  Those interested in athletics will remember the names of Billy Cannon and George Rice, just to name a couple of alums who distinguished themselves in that arena.  Istrouma produced successful politicians and community leaders as well.  Beauty queens, doctors, lawyers, artists, business men/women and television celebrities are among the memorable names.  The names are too many to mention.  Just suffice it to say that we were a large successful group of people!

Social media has made it possible in recent years to reaquaint with each other.  There are several groups on Facebook that are comprised of Istrouma graduates.  These groups have been able to meet face to face at Pow Wows every month or so.  Pow Wow(playing on the Indian mascot theme) is the term we have given to our meetings of fun and fellowship.  We have enjoyed crawfish, pizza, roasted pork, Christmas cheer and once we had a "flash mob" ice cream party (Baskin Robbins, of course.)  Frank and Kathy have hosted the group several times at their beautiful country home.  Tom and Diane  have also graciously opened their home to us.

Most of the time, we just call a Pow Wow at a restaurant and converge for a meal.  We even have  "official photographers"....our very own Pam and Cristi.  The banter on Facebook is daily and we have reformed relationships and friendships that are even stronger after all the time that passed between our connections.  We laugh, cry, discuss the weather and pray for each other.  For many the daily encounters in word are essential to a "complete day."

Recently the Istrouma High School Class of 1967 got together for their 45th Reunion.  Because they are/were friendly Indians, they invited other classes to participate.  Over 150 alums from "The Reservation" converged on the home of classmate Laura Baker Dupree and husband, Glenn, to enjoy a fun evening.

The planning committee was able to employ Van Broussard and his band to perform music from the 60's era for our listening and dancing enjoyment.  Van's band had performed for the senior prom for the Class of '67 so this was especially meaningful.  The "belt buckle polishing" ballads and jitterbug standards jarred memories of our youth and some of us showed that we could still shake a leg!  A special moment was the performance of "I'm Leaving it up to You" by Van and Grace.  That song was Number 1 on the pop charts in the 60's and was fondly received by the crowd.

We dined on Jambalaya, white beans, salad, bread and many delicious appetizers and desserts.  The wine flowed and lots and lots of soft drinks and water were consumed.  It was a warm balmy summer evening!  The name tags were read and reread as we recognized our former selves even in our mature bodies.  Laura and Glenn's gorgeous back yard was the perfect setting for the party.

Indian alums from as far away as Norway, Canada, Georgia, Texas and even Mississippi attended.  The evening included a somber moment when deceased classmates were named and remembered.  The remainder of the evening was nothing but pure fun!  We chatted, hugged, proclaimed how we "hadn't changed at bit" and generally loved being together.  The evening flew by and we vowed to make the next time just as much fun.

Hopefully this account of the legacy of my high school, Istrouma, has been informative and entertaining to my readers.  I haven't mentioned all the names of all the people I should have, but tried to mention a few to give an idea of our involvement.   If you were in attendance, please comment on this post to add your own special memories for this record of our gathering.

In most of my posts I conclude with a recipe and I don't want to disappoint.  We have one special alum, aka Rooster, who loves "all things bacon."  As a tribute to him, Donna made Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookies for the dessert table.   Click the link for the entire recipe and a great picture of the delicacy we got to taste.   Try them!  You will like them.

Special thanks to Frank P. for the inspiration on this post! Also, thanks to all of you from whom I "borrowed" pictures for this account.

 "Nawaganti lends his spirit that is loyal, brave and true."