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."  

The Highway that Huey Built

It was serendipity.  My friend, Marilea, invited me to accompany her to a lunchtime lecture at the West Baton Rouge Museum in quaint Port Allen, La.  The topic was a newly published book, Louisiana Highway 1.  The author and photographer would be there discussing their collaboration which is a lovely depiction of the longest highway in the State of Louisiana.

Our afternoon began with an early lunch  at the Court Street Cafe.  The cafe is on the main "drag" in town and serves up breakfast and lunch to locals and a few tourists searching for food off the beaten path.  The hamburger I ordered did not disappoint.  We were early so had no trouble finding a parking spot, but noticed that when we left the parking spots were few.

Upon arriving at the museum we observed that we could have brought a brown bag lunch as many of the lecture attendees had done.  The thirty or so people had gathered around to have the opportunity to learn about the book, see some slides of the book's photographs and meet the author and the photographer.
Anne Butler wrote the text and Henry Cancienne artfully captured the sites along Highway 1.

The story of the construction of the highway is that when Huey Long was running for Governor, he had a hard time navigating from town to town for his campaign speeches.  According to Butler, he pledged to build better roads if elected.  The resulting Highway 1 stretches from the Gulf of Mexico over 436 miles to the northern part of the state.  Both Butler and Cancienne are Louisiana natives and spent years in writing the book.  Reading the book is much like traveling the roads with them.  It captures the culture of the people and the places.   Butler's prose is informative and poetic.  The book which could be considered "coffee table" in appearance is full of the rich history of the great state of Louisiana.

Marilea and I were impressed that we recognized a few of the places in the book but that there were so many we would like to yet visit. Louisiana Highway 1 is navigable but must be traveled at a slower pace than the Interstate system.   We were able to purchase the book and receive autographs after the lecture.  I hope to go back there for another lunchtime event very soon.

The lunchtime discussion was not the only treat of the day.  There was an accompanying art exhibit by Louisiana artists depicting sights along Louisiana Highway 1.  Our high school friend, Elayne Spinks Kuehler, was one of the featured artists.  It was our first time to see her work on display and we were impressed.  Her painting is lovely and we enjoyed having a real connection to the exhibit.  Also on display were works by the deceased artist, Norma Roy.  We knew Norma in another way.  She was our Physical Education teacher all those years ago at Istrouma High School.  Who knew the coincidence of that!

The West Baton Rouge Museum is a vibrant place with many events including the lunchtime lectures, exhibits, educational opportunities for teachers and students and a great permanent collection featuring Three Hundred Years of History in West Baton Rouge.

Thanks, Marilea, for including me on this perfect Weekday Ramble!