Sunday, October 31, 2010

Heading to VA!

We'll be hitting the road in about 2 hours!!  The bags are packed and we just need to give the house a quick vacuuming in case a miracle occurs and we have a showing while we're away!

The first time that we left after placing the house on the market,  everything was in perfect order.  Our standards have definitely relaxed.  Yesterday afternoon we worked raking, blowing and sweeping outdoors and today we'll just give things a quick touch up before heading out the door.

Biggs and Atta are expecting to go along, but not this time.  Biggs especially wanted to be sure that no one forgot him.   This in NOT a posed photo!!

We won't be in Lexington (other than a quick pass through) until Thursday.  The plan is to spend a couple of days in Charlottesville.

It's our LAST Parent's Weekend!  ;(

OMG..... do you think I need to bleach my teeth before I get there????

Yellow Leaf Festival

We had a fun morning in St. Francisville on Saturday at the Yellow Leaf Festival.  There were about 40 artists displaying under the oaks at Parker Park.

The weather couldn't have been more beautiful.  We had a hard time focusing on shopping though since every few minutes we would bump into friends we hadnt seen lately from St Francisville who would ask "When are you moving?"!!  If we only knew!

This is Dunbar  McCurley  (don't you love both the name and the awesome brown coveralls?)..... he is a Veterinarian from Woodville MS and began making bowls about 18 years ago in his spare time.

And wait.... is that someone we recognize making a purchase in the background???

We bought a few Christmas presents and also purchased a painting for ourselves.  We've decided that it will be our lone Christmas present to each other this year.  It was painted by Martha Singer who attends Grace Church with us.... here she is with it.....
It has some texture and metallic gold that makes it shimmer a bit.... I fell in love with it!  Now the dilemma is whether to pack it up right away or hang it here to enjoy until we move.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Beautiful Ride in the Tunica Hills

I've been busy this week....

Attended the evening Classics book group up in St Francisville where we discussed Richard III by Shakespeare.  Another of my literature gaps, so I'm glad I read it.  The St Francisville group is a big one, we had about 18 people there.... men and women many of whom I know from church.

While I was at my book group trying to keep the kings, queens and princes of England straight, Joe was at his weekly poker night!

In addition to getting "beautified" at Nona's salon with new highlights and a cut (have to look good for Parent's Weekend!), I got in touch with my inner handywoman and put a coat of topdressing sealer on the wood floors; time flies, since it has been a year since we refinished them!  They were beginning to dull a little and look great now.  Took the "lazy" way out and did things in thirds, so we didn't have to shift all of the furniture out at one time.

Noel went back to the Animal Center to be certain that her infection is cleared up.... She's doing much better.... thanks for asking, Owen!  

If anyone has noticed that the walking ticker has barely budged, I had a horrible sore throat for days.  Just when I was about to break down and go to the doctor, I was able to swallow again.  So I'm back on the trail of my ipod.  

I'm not the only one who needs exercise!  Look at that belly!!  

Yesterday we had a glorious ride up on the old Tunica Road just north of St Francisville.   The old sunken roadbed cuts through the state run Tunica Wildlife Management Area.  

We had planned on only riding the road and not going into the WMA trails since we're still just moseying along and trying to get back in shape.  Good thing that we weren't planning on riding the trails since I had forgotten that it was bow season.  We saw about 12 trucks parked, so the hunters were out in force.

Our only wildlife spotting was two armadillos (and a dead deer strapped to the back of an ATV.)  

Funny moment was when we saw a large van coming down the road and lo and behold it was a FedEX van!!  He stopped and spoke for a moment, since I recognized him as one of our delivery men for the house.  He had been at Angola and was taking the 10 mile shortcut through the WMA to get to the first house on the other side.  

                                              The photos are all of the road.... this is not a trail!

I can't think of a better way to spend the afternoon!   And did you notice??  It's our first cool day, we're wearing longsleeves!!!  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Angola Prison Rodeo

 Up early on Sunday and I made a quick batch of scones to share with Tim and Ada who came for breakfast........

Then it was off to the Angola Prison Rodeo!

A little Angola history:  18,000 acres (larger than Manhattan) with 5,200 men incarcerated there 75% of whom are serving life sentences.  It isn't a walled prison; instead it is known as the Alcatraz of the South since it has natural perimeter barriers:  the Tunica Hills to the east and the Mississippi River on the other three sides.  No barricade walls within either;  housing is in six different fenced areas.  The majority of the land is in farm production use.... hence the nickname "The Farm."   They grow vegetables (enough to feed not only all of Angola, but three other prisons year round), fruits, cotton and raise cattle and horses.

We had a fun filled day thanks to Matt and Suzanne who got our tickets and also a VIP invitation to the "Ranch House" for food and music before and after the rodeo.

Matt and Suzanne had the motorhome parked at the Ranch House as Matt ("retired" Oral Surgeon/Suzanne assists) was working the next two days at the prison.  They work at Angola every other week and have been leaving the motorhome there unless they are taking it on another trip between work visits.  This week the bus got a little bling!  Suzanne had this amazing tiger painted on it by one of the inmates as a surprise for Matt.

I'm not sure if he was surprised or dumbfounded!  You just never know what Suzanne will come up with next!  

After eating and visiting at the Ranch House, we made the drive over to the rodeo grounds.  Here was my only disappointment in the day:  NO cameras allowed at the rodeo grounds!  And there were sooooo many good shots just begging to be taken.  Oh well!

 The crafts.... they call them "hobbycrafts" were good this year!  Model ships, paintings, jewelry, furniture, wood working etc.  On our last visit about 5 years ago there was an excess of wood-burned geegaws and tooled leather goods (belts, bible covers, wallets) totaling not much that I remember being tempted to buy.  This year there was quite a variety and the wood-burning shop must have folded because I didn't see a single plaque anywhere!!!  I found a Christmas gift for someone (not sure for whom yet!) and also bought a carved Christmas ornament to keep for myself.

The protocol for purchasing an item is that the "offender" (prisonspeak for inmate) gives you a slip with the price and his name, which you take to one of the cashier areas where non-offenders handle all of the money.  They mark your slip "Paid" and then you  go back to the inmate and collect your goods.   Some of the goods are sold by offenders who can't mix with the public and in those areas, there is a fence separating them from the shopppers.

I'm not sure what percentage of the sales money each individual gets to keep, but the general ticket fees/rodeo profits go to the Prisoners Welfare Fund which provides services which aren't covered by the state.

When the rodeo began, it was as rough and tumble and fast-paced as I remembered.  Bull and Bareback Bronc riding are the same as any rodeo (though with more spills than with the pros and Bull Riding is called "Bust Out"), but there are other events which are distinctly Angola's version of rodeo.  The strangest is "Inmate Poker" where groups of four inmates sit at tables pretending to play cards while a bull roams around charging at them and the last man to be seated wins.  The final event is "Guts and Glory" where all the participants try to get the Poker chip from between the horns of the bull which is running around charging everyone in the arena.  The inmate who gets the chip wins money deposited directly into their prison personal account.... this week it was $1,000 plus a bonus $500  paid by a private "donor" who wanted the chip as a souvenir.   In case you're thinking that the bulls were small and not too scary..... wrong!  They were huge, mad and all had massive horns.  There were a couple of minor injuries, but at least this week nothing that appeared too serious.

For the offenders who were able to mix with the public, some were fortunate enough to have family members who had made the long drive out and spent the day with them.  Add together visiting family and friends, workers, shoppers and the 10,000 people with rodeo ticket seats and you've got a big crowd.  Especially when there is one 26 mile two lane road in and out!

Suzanne took time to introduce us when she could to the inmates that they've gotten to know personally over the past two years of working up there.  I could tell that she felt a genuine attachment to a couple of them.  I'm guessing that having the tiger painted on the bus was her way of getting some money to one of them.   Meeting someone who has a friendly personality and intelligence yet is at Angola for life on "three strikes" for relatively minor drug charges makes you wonder what is going on with our justice system.

Dueling Hat Logos!
After the rodeo, we went back to the ranch house area and visited at the motorhome for an hour or so and then headed for home.

 Even after waiting hours for the crowd to thin, the normally 45 minute drive took almost 3 hours!  Oh well, Tim and Ada were great company in the car!  A great day with wonderful friends!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Odds and Ends

Time for another catch up post!

Our "St. Joseph" showing (the one that called immediately after we had purchased St Joseph for burial) came last Wednesday.  The showing went well.... as usual.  No negative comments.

So we'll see.  They stayed for about an hour and a half and it was pitch black by the time they left.  According to the realtor,  two of the previous showings have yet to purchase a house so those are also still in the mix as possible sales.

I'm now to the point where I'm committed to having another Christmas in the house and gave everyone the green light to get their airline tickets to come home.  Owen and Kathleen were quick on the purchase and will be here the 23rd through the 27th!

In the pet department:  "Her Highness" aka Noel was sick last week with a bladder infection.  Luckily we caught it early and she is getting back to her normal annoying self!!   Atta had her yearly checkup and tipped the scales at 97 heavy as Sammy!

Our camping trip this week to the Claiborne Trails area in Kisatchie National Forest was wonderful.  I'm embarrassed to admit that it had been well over a year since we used the big trailer for the horses.  When we arrived at the campground Sunday afternoon, there were a few other trailers but they were all in the process of loading up.  By the time we got settled, we had the campground to ourselves!

"Campground" is a bit of a misnomer.  The ATV and dirt bike campground about a mile away has wonderful limestone roads, paved pads, lantern poles, picnic tables, bathroom buildings etc.  The Ahtus Melder Horse Campground is simply a big field with pine trees.

We had brought plenty of water for the horses and we had our generator, so we were set.  We had a nice 2 hour ride that first day mostly on the narrower motorcyle/horse trails that wound around south of the campground.  The horses were pumped up and so it wasn't an entirely relaxing ride!   We grilled pork chops that evening and slept like logs!

On Monday, we rode almost 9 miles and on Sunday a little more than 10 miles.  We were in the saddle for 3-4 hours each day since we had decided to work on the horses behaving themselves and walk the whole time.  Lots of wildflowers were blooming and the weather was perfect.  Tshirts in the daytime and longsleeves at night.  We didn't see another person the whole three days!

It's impossible to get a good picture of Sarge.... but you can see how pretty the woods were this weekend...

We had our longest ride on Tuesday AM and then left in the early afternoon for home.  Arrived home around 5pm and I quickly began work on my Mark Twain report for the next morning!  My ladies Reading Group was to be here the next AM and so I was both the host and the presenter.  Though I had done some reading (I had 5 books along with me from the library) I didn't want to bring the computer or write longhand so most of the report writing needed to be done when we got home.

Thanks to Joe who went to the store and bought butter that I needed for baking and a DiGuilio's pizza for dinner, I was in bed by 11 pm.  What a day!  Riding 10 miles in the AM and then driving 150 miles home plus I managed to write my report on Twain, come up with commentary and discussion questions about The Prince and the Pauper (we're doing Children's books this year) and make a delicious Pistachio Torte (second time to make this recipe) for the AM.

Weekend plans for the family far and wide:

Carter?? I've tried to call, but haven't had any luck.  It would be a great weekend for camping in the mountains.

Asher is headed for Saratoga Springs (pictures, please?) with Chris.

Clark has a certain beautiful curly headed girl visiting again!  She just can't get enough of Lexington!  I'm not sure what they can do to top the Safari Park and the drive in movie from her last visit, but I'm sure they'll come up with something.   Oh wait.... last second editing:  Look who is at the Pink Cadillac for lunch!

Owen and Kathleen are in Las Vegas for the weekend!!!  We'll see if Owen has inherited his father's ability to walk away from the tables or his mother's propensity to think that just one more bet might be the right hit on the roulette wheel!  Kathleen, keep him in line if he's taking after me!

As for our weekend plans.... you'll have to wait and see the photos on Monday!

Anybody else reading.... Cathy... what are you doing?

Friday, October 22, 2010

As Crazy as Me?

Why do I love Cathy and Otto?  Perhaps because they are as crazy as us.

It didn't seem bizarre in the slightest that on a whim Cathy and Otto decided to swing back through Baton Rouge on their way home to California.

That they would trade cars and swap out the reliable Honda for Alysse's older Jeep.

Go to a place on Airline Highway and purchase a flatbed trailer.

Meet us at the storage unit in Baton Rouge and reclaim the Triumph project car (all in pieces) which they  had left behind/given to Joe 9 years ago when they moved to CA.

And finally haul it all back to California to the mountain house where they have no garage space.

Neither did it seem insane to any of the concerned parties that Grace and Joe had stored the car in a rental warehouse (along with two other TRs of their own) for 9 years and never touched it.   To be accurate, it was "only" in the warehouse for about 8 years and then when the warehouse was sold, Joe moved it all to the storage unit for the past year.

All perfectly normal behavior.

Here we are ready to go out for a drive.  All that Otto needs to do is put back on the seats, wheels, frame,  engine.....

And may I add that I'm proud that despite our deceivingly middle-aged appearances, we (Otto and Joe helped just a little) got the car, frame, engine and 20 assorted boxes of parts loaded with a minimum of strain.  Okay, ignore Otto's sweaty shirt.... Cathy and I were barely damp.

I love those two characters!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's The Little Things

I wonder if the new owners, whomever they may be, will notice the details here and there that make this place so unique?

I have a vivid recollection of pretending to sit in chairs on the non-existent front porch before we began construction.  In addition to staking out the location of the front of the house, we planned the height of the porch to be just right so that while seated on the porch, we couldn't see the road out front.  There's a reason why when you're sitting in the porch rocking chairs, it looks like seamless grass going from our pasture across to where the Brister's house is now.  When we realized we could create this "illusion," it became important to us. 

That's one of many choices that I remember; others were largely forgotten and just became a part of the fabric of the house.

Last month when I was pressure washing the brickwork in the side herb garden, I was struck by this.....

Would anyone else have been so anal as to cut and add this little shard?  I laid all of the bricks and Joe did the cutting.  It would have been faster and simpler to just put a big blob of mortar there in the sweep of the curve, but we didn't.  I'm sure we never even thought about it.  I wouldn't be surprised if it took Joe more than one cut to get it just right.

If only I was the third or fourth owner of our home!  I would then be part of a chain of owners and it would be natural to pass possession and care of the house along to someone else.   

It's lousy being the first to let it go.  

Everything is mine and has a story.

Even the littlest brick sliver. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Burying St. Joseph

I've known about the practice of burying a St. Joseph statue in order to ensure a house sale, but since I've never sold a house this was a first burial for me.  In addition to being the patron saint of fathers, St. Joseph also has a handle on home sales; I imagine this is due to his profession as a carpenter.  I assumed that this was largely a South Louisiana tradition; however, since a St. Joseph home sale "kit" can be bought on ebay, news of the tradition has obviously spread!

When we first listed the house I went to online to buy my St. Joseph and expected to buy a nice-sized least 12" or more, perhaps made of plaster, multi-color etc.  No..... The ebay version is only 3.5"!!! Smaller than my index finger!!  

I was assured by my Catholic advisor, (Cathy) who btw with the aid of St. Joseph sold her last house in three days, that size doesn't matter.  Even so I just couldn't bring myself to order such a tiny little thing.  So I did what I often do best and procrastinated.

I should have known that she wouldn't forget.   Cathy's parting words before she and Otto drove away yesterday were an explicit directive to get myself to a religious store and then put St. Joseph in the ground!  

Following orders from a very adamant Cathy,  Joe and I drove to Baton Rouge on Friday afternoon.  These were the choices at the local Catholic gift store.....   

The boxed version on the left is the same tiny one that you can find on ebay.  We decided to go with the 7" model on the right.  Somehow it just seemed more appropriate.  

Less than ten minutes after pulling away from the store, I got a call from the showing service that a realtor wanted to bring a client to see the house on Monday!!!!  

Coincidence?  Remember this will only be our 5th showing in almost 6 months.  

Was it also coincidence that just as we began to dig the hole, a car stopped and the driver said he was doing a drive-by to look at the house having seen it online?  

The guy wanted to know what we were doing out there digging a hole.  St. Joseph was enjoying a last bit of sunshine leaning next to the signpost stakes.  Busted!  And since the prospective buyer turned out to be clueless about St. Joseph, we may have looked a bit like voodoo kooks with our plastic icon!  Oh well!  It will be interesting to see if the guy actually comes for a showing.  

We said a prayer when we covered up our plastic saint and then spent the rest of the day watering the gardens and getting ready for Monday's showing.  

Thank you in advance St. Joseph!

Look Who Came to Louisiana.....

I started to say that we had a visit from our favorite Californians.

Then realized that I should probably reserve that title for Owen and Kathleen!  But somehow I just don't think of those two as Californians.... maybe after a few more years.

So our favorite "old" Californians were here!

What fun it was to see Cathy and Otto.   I wish that I could foresee a future where we were within driving distance of each other.    I miss her terribly!

I cooked like a crazed Iron Chef on Tuesday (crawfish etouffe, sensation salad dressing, shrimp mold, BBQ pork, strawberry margarita pie, cinnamon rolls....) so I was free to relax and enjoy their visit when they arrived on Wednesday.

We ate and ate and ate and ate until they left on Friday AM and still didn't get around to the BBQ pork and a few other things.  I think I gained 5 pounds over 2 days!

Cathy and I scoured the thrift stores in Baton Rouge searching for bargain furniture for Alysse's apartment over by LSU and came up largely empty handed (I bought a $3.00 blue striped Oxford cloth shirt at St. Vincent de Paul!).  Even though we didn't find much, we had a pleasant day driving around town.  It was so fun to have, as Joe called her when we first met, my "kindred spirit" to confide in and goof with in person.

But sadly, they had to be on their way on Friday AM after breakfast.  We had been up talking until 1 AM both nights that they were with us; so by Friday noon, lack of sleep caught up to me and I crashed on the couch for a long nap.

No need to do much cooking for a few days as the refrigerator is still stuffed!

Monday, October 4, 2010

No one treated me to a movie today....

I wish that there had been a few helpers here today for cleaning day.  I'd have sprung for a movie like the old days!  I didn't finish til after 4pm so I didn't set any records!

Though he's getting accomplished at running the vacuum,  my only remaining assistant had an orthodontist appointment and so sadly (sarcasm inserted) missed out on all the fun.  Since the appointment was at 10:30 and he arrived back home at 4:45, I'd say he's fine-tuning the art of staying away on Monday cleaning day!

The dishwasher is in and doesn't leak, so I can't complain.... (much)!

Bizarre occurrence next door at the Down's house this afternoon.  Melinda called asking for "back-up" as she had just arrived home to find a window broken out in the den (double paned glass with a screen).  Glass pieces were all the way across the room and even a few shards in the foyer.  Other than glass everywhere the den wasn't too bad.

However, the kitchen had blood on the floors and on the window seat, plants all turned over, pots broken.  Pottery shards, dirt, plants and blood smeared and mixed everywhere in the kitchen.  A real sight to see.... astonishing.

Minnie (small Schnauzer) had been in all day anyway, but Rocky (Giant Schnauzer) was inside when Melinda got home.  Obviously he had come in through the window, but neither dog seemed to have any cuts.

So what had done all of  the bleeding?   And was it still in the house somewhere?  We did some conjecturing about a squirrel, raccoon, chipmunk etc getting smashed through the window by Rocky, none of which seemed very plausible especially since all of the blood was at counter level and below and any of those critters probably would have done some running around on the counter.

Then I saw two slightly bigger pools of blood on the rug at the kitchen sink.  And right in the middle of each little pool was a small cloven hoof mark.  Tiny.  Less than 2".

So unless Minnie and Rocky decide to spill the beans, we'll never know exactly what happened.  Did Rocky chase the baby fawn through the window?  Did it just bust through and then manage to get back out after getting run around by Minnie?   Not enough blood for a massacre by the dogs.  No fur or "parts".  But no blood outside the window on the patio or by the pool where it would surely have left some blood on the way out.  Very, very strange goings on here on Bickham Road!!!

Here's my photo of the day titled "Looks Can be Deceiving"   All curled up together, it looks like they are the best of friends doesn't it?

In reality, Smudge knows just what buttons to push!  Noel was sound asleep when Smudge darted in through the open door from the barn.   With a whole house full of cozy spots to curl up on, she horned in next to snoozing Noel and proceeded to wash her paws while laying on her back.

As soon as Noel awoke there was great indignation, hissing and mean stares from Noel.  In Noel's mind, Smudge has absolutely NO business in the house.   Life should be great fun in our rental house!

I'm not sure I blame Noel.  I don't know that I'd be associate with Smudge either.... she is a bit wild and crazy loooking!  Those eyes!!!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Birthdays, Food and Fires

We had a fun evening last week at Matt and Suzanne's celebrating Ada's 71st birthday.  It can be hard to catch Ada between trips for work... in addition going here and there in the US, she had just gotten back from a consultation in American Samoa and was planning a trip to Switzerland!  It's refreshing to know someone who enjoys their work and makes a difference in people's lives.

Matt cooked the main dish and made the BEST fried catfish topped with crawfish etouffee that I've ever tasted!

I've been enjoying cooking the past week.  I got motivated to make an apple pie since I had a new crust recipe that I was itching to try out.  We asked Sue in to join us for a piece after we saw her out on the street while we were all walking the dogs.

Atta's reaction was priceless when Travis and Beau (Shelties) and Alledah (Cavalier King Charles) came into the house after we all walked up the driveway together.   She was Sooooo excited.  She literally ran around the island a few times after we all came in through the porch door and you could just practically hear her thoughts...."Friends!  I've got friends over!!!"  She was grabbing squeeky toys and just beside herself.  What a sweetheart of a dog!

Our dramatic news was that last Saturday PM, we came close to having a house fire.  I had started the dishwasher at around 9 pm and we had gone back to watch the rest of the LSU football game on the bigger screen in bed.  At around 11, Joe was the first to smell something and when we went out to investigate,  the dishwasher was smoking and unresponsive to shutting down.  Reading 72 minutes to go on a 54 minute cycle that should have ended an hour earlier!
Since we smelled the awful smell through the closed hall door and way back  in our bedroom, you can imagine how bad it was.  There isn't much to actually ignite in a dishwasher since it's all stainless steel and plastic, but the plastic was doing a fine job of melting and giving off the most noxious odor you can imagine.

I'm sure that at some point, it would have caught the surrounding cabinetry on fire.   Here's the goopy control module that was inside the door.... we were very lucky!  The smoke alarm hadn't gone off yet and that has me wondering if plastic smoke is different from wood smoke as far as a detector is concerned.... anybody know?

I had never thought to worry about a 5 year old dishwasher.  Prorated out, the stupid thing cost us about 150.00 per year just to own!   I've stopped letting the ancient clothes dryer run when I'm away, but never gave a second thought to pushing the dishwasher button and walking out the door.

After googling "GE dishwasher fire" to see if we were part of any recalls, I was horrified to see that GE's are all over the internet for melting and catching fire.  We weren't part of the GE recall 3 years ago involving 2.5 million machines catching on fire, but perhaps we should have been.

Even if I could have gotten some money from GE via a recall, I'll never have GE another after seeing those google results and reading story after story similar to ours.  The living area of the house still smells bad so I'm hoping that we don't have any showings this weekend.  I've had the windows open (it's been wonderfully cool here this week) and almost exhausted every candle that I own, even so it still smells pretty putrid 6 days later.

Here is the appliance technician working as I type on the installation of the new Kitchenaid.....

Good thing I'm not paying by the hour!  :)

OH!!  I almost forgot I wanted to tell everyone how delicious wild Alaskan salmon is.... especially when you know the fisherman!

I cooked the first pieces the other day and the texture and flavor were out of this world.  If you are reading this Carter, I should have sprung for buying a box and having you ship it to us.

I made a Mango Jalapeno Relish to go on the side and it was a great complement.  I'll be rationing out the remaining salmon meals carefully!

Raeanna is visiting Clark for the weekend.  Owen and Kathleen are going to the "Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival" at Golden Gate Park.  (Go hear the Avett Brothers for me!).  Not sure what Asher and Carter are doing??