Let me just start out by saying that I am not in any way, shape or form affiliated with Lucas Arts or Disney. They are not behind this and this is simply my art (ish?) solely to pay homage to a story I’ve come to treasure.
Anyway, almost 2 years ago (sad, I know) I started a journey that would test the limits of my patience, my building skills and my marriage. The conversation started a little like this:
Me- “I should totally build a cat house for Bella and Izzy to hang out in. I’m going to try to make it resemble Luke Skywalker’s house. You know? I’ll just put it on a little pedestal.”
Jamie- “How little? Because we don’t need, or have room for anymore furniture. They already love the 94 inch tall one you built them…and the separate litter box cabinet.”
Me (a little irritated)- “Not very big. Don’t worry, I think I’ll sell it anyway.”
Here’s what happened…
I did make a pretty cute little replica of the house and even built a platform for it to sit in. Getting the smooth texture proved to be a giant pain in the rear, so just this little piece took far longer than I’m willing to admit.
I wanted to mimic the underground construction of the Skywalker moisture farm (just my putting that into writing leaves no doubt as to the depths of my nerdiness, does it?), but make it easy to lift out for cleaning.
I thought about calling it “Catooine,” the wind-swept, desert planet and lovely hideaway for the feline who’s had enough of your human nonsense.
Side Bar- I loved the cat tower that I built for my girls a few years ago and wanted to incorporate some of the conveniences it offered. I also have had several years to figure out what it’s lacking.
Here’s ours again and while my girls never complained, spending hours sleeping up there, I have always regretted not adding a litter box cabinet underneath.
I figured anyone else who has dogs would enjoy being able to feed the cats out of the reach of the canine menace, so I decided to make this one more practical by including a counter top. Since it was a nod to Star Wars (NOT affiliated in any way), I went crazy with shapes. As a result of this, I have been recently (and oft) overheard telling people that, “If I ever build anything that is not a square or rectangle, please slap me. Hard.”
Of course if you’re going to have a 2 tiers, you need an easy way for your cat to reach the top. Rather than add steps, I decided to use the second tier as a nod to The Empire Strikes Back and started building what I hoped would resemble icy paths and an icy cliff. Again, waaaaaayyyy too much time was spent shaping, sanding, tiling, texturing, etc., but I used broken tiles and white grout for the floor and was pretty happy with the results.
I was liking my results, but I remembered regretting not having incorporated a litter box cabinet into mine (rather than building a separate piece), so the bottom was turned into a cabinet.
I should point out that once I deviated from plan A (just the house), most of this was already cooking in my noggin. I just waited to do most of the finish work until after the rough idea was put together.
Well, you need access to the litter box cabinet that dogs and kids can’t access, so a secret entrance, disguised as an ice cave befitting a Wampum, was in order. As were ice sickles and scratching posts, icy glitter along grout lines and a strong, epoxy-type protectant.
And, heeeeyyyy…if tier was is a nod to A New Hope, and tier two was a nod to Empire, then tier three needed to recognize Return of the Jedi!
This may have been the first time that Jamie really started questioning my sanity and I can’t really blame him. I spent A LOT of time on this and I love him for putting up with it. I began to see this more as an art piece and less as a build, taking time to really enjoy the creative process (mostly).
I carpeted the outside for scratching, added “Endor” greenery and also added a tree trunk step to make it easier for older cats to climb. Sadly, a battle must took place during construction and the resulting blaster marks remain.
Tragically, this was around the time that we lost the amazing Carrie Fisher, so I decided to add a little tribute to the woman who reminded us all that even princesses could kick butt…on any planet…and look great doing it.
This is where the Ewok village was born and I can’t bring myself to add up all the hours I spent working in this thing…although, I could shut myself in there and hide sometimes, which was lovely. I loved doing some of the detail work, but the hanging net was my boys’ favorite. FYI- there are NO droids or Wookies in there.
The inside walls were covered in carpeting, with felt accents, and the floor was covered in outdoor carpet for easy cleaning and sanitizing. I put a screen on the back to prevent moisture build up and a magnetic closure door on the front. There is room for a litter box and to store food and extra litter.
I was feeling pretty happy and thinking I could be almost finished, but then my 11 year old told me I couldn’t make this thing without a Death Star. Ugh! He was right.
Thus began another grueling period of forming and smoothing, but after forever, I had my hollowed out canvas.
Figuring what to do on the outside of the space station presented another opportunity for me to sit back for days, staring at the orb I’d grown to hate, plagued by the conflict raging in me…
Side Bar 2- how the “creative process” works in me:
OCD vs. Thinking Outside of the Box
Anywhere from minutes to days to weeks are spent formulating a plan
Gather materials and begin
Think of a really cool add-on or change and spend 1-3 days trying to figure out how to make it happen (this step happens repeatedly during any given project)
Walk away for days or weeks to avoid being committed to a mental institution
Implement crazy changes
Find original sketches and laugh heartily about the differences between it and the finished product
So, yes, this project was crazy.
Anyhoo, I thought that a yarn ball Death Star had to be the way to go and that a hand carved light saber (which looks more like a pen) would be a great way to keep the Yarn Star from spinning.
By removing the saber, you can grasp the Yarn Star penthouse and pull it up and our for easy cleaning or clearing low doorways.
And, of course, I had to make custom pillows, but you should know that I am a self-taught seamstress.
So that’s how a small cat house became an all in one litter/storage cabinet, counter/feeding area, scratching posts and sleeping areas, know as The Cat Tower around these parts.
It is now listed on eBay, so wish me luck…and thanks for not calling me crazy to my face if you knew what I’ve been doing.
It weighs a lot, but since I’m going to go with local pick up (I may deliver) on eBay, I haven’t tried to weigh it yet. Below are rough dimensions.
A short slide show…
UPDATE- Apparently, the base cabinet of what was almost called “Cattooine” is also a wonderful place for children to hide and eat candy.
As our family life gets crazier, jiu jitsu keeps us busier, and my growing boys eat more like small horses, I’ve realized just how hard it is to snack healthy. Add to this the alerts going out on social media daily telling you that everything from chicken to cereal will give you cancer, or simply drop you where you stand, and a mom starts to think more about finding healthier alternatives to daily favorites. No, I’m not cowering in fear, but you guys know I like to take on projects, so this month I decided to try my hand at a favorite around here- breakfast tarts 😉
I did some research and found a recipe on tablespoon.com which seemed fairly simple. I just did things a little differently…and will in the future. I think next time I will make my own crusts so these are a little easier to shape. I never claimed to be a baker and I think my additions to the recipe will attest to this.
Homemade Pop Tarts
1 box refrigerated pie crust (2 layers)
1 small jar strawberry preserves (good quality) I used blackberry that we made last year
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons milk (2 – 3 tsp)
Preheat the oven to 425° F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Unroll one of the pie crusts and square the edges. Cut into rectangles. Place 1 tsp of jam in the center of a rectangle and top with another piece of crust. Crimp all four edges. Repeat until all of the pie crust is used.
Start to get upset because you can’t make twenty perfect rectangles with the crust you have. Pull out the rolling pin and try to make more rectangles with the crust you cut away in you futile attempts to make above perfect rectangles. Laugh at yourself through the tears as you end up with a few rectangles, some trapezoids and some kind of half-moon-looking, sad, little thing. Keep the swearing to a minimum when you accidentally get a little crimp crazy and poke holes in the crust.
Fix said holes like the baking MacGuyver you are and carry on.
Bake the pop-tarts for about 7 – 8 minutes or until slightly brown. If you don’t want to add extra sugar with the glaze, you can use an egg wash on the tops with some white sugar.
Perhaps it was the fact that my tarts ran the geometric shape gauntlet, but I found mine needed to cook from 8 to 10 minutes. Just watch them carefully, you want a nice golden-brown.
Allow the pop tarts to cool for 5 minutes. Meanwhile prepare glaze by adding milk to the sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. Pour over pop tarts and sprinkle with decorating sugar. Serve warm.
You need to hear this…FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!! LET THEM COOL FOR MORE THAN FIVE MINUTES!!!! I cannot stress enough the importance of cooling these taste bud obliterating, hot lava-filled, innocent looking hell-born treats! Seriously, walk away. You can glaze them while they are hot, but I’m telling you right now, if you take a bite within the first hour, you will likely lose the power of speech and the ability to taste for a good 24 hours.
Leftover pop tarts can be stored in an airtight container. To serve warm, heat in the microwave, or flat in a toaster oven. (Placing in an upright toaster oven is not recommended).
These are really delicious and my family loved them! So much better than the hard, store-bought variety. Enjoy…and don’t forget to let them cool!
As the faithful among you know, things have been very busy around here, even more so since we enrolled the boys in a martial arts class. After watching their first couple of classes, I realized they were getting a great workout and not realizing it because they were having such a blast. This got me thinking about my own health and how much I hate working out. Seriously, we owned a treadmill and I used it faithfully for a long time, but I’m not good at sticking to an exercise regime…especially when I’m walking and not going anywhere or sweating and not feeling like I’m accomplishing something immediate. Yes, ADHD sometimes robs me of my ability to see the forest for the trees.
Anyway, at 43 years of age I decided to give the adult MMA class a try since they were offering 3 classes plus free MMA gloves for $19.95. You have to understand that, until a year ago, I couldn’t handle even watching that display of “barbarism” on TV and would get annoyed with Jamie when he turned on UFC and the like, so this was a huge leap for me.
I’m almost 4 weeks in now and I can’t tell you how much I love it. If you’d have told me a month ago that I was going to love MMA and talk about it almost as much as Crossfit people (sorry, Crossfit people), I would have laughed out loud. I am having so much fun while getting a great workout and learning skills that could save my life someday.
What follows is a harrowing tale of mental and physical survival I attribute to skills learned at Gladiators Academy in Youngsville, LA…
Last night I was walking under the oaks, thinking of the great people we are meeting and the wonderful things we are all receiving since joining Gladiators Academy for my MMA and the boys’ jiu jitsu. It occurred to me that Eric Scallan and co. might actually help me become the warrior woman I always thought I could be and I smiled. I suddenly knew the things that have been holding me back most of my life…EPIPHANY! I’ll skip the details, but it was deep and I was ecstatic, tough, soft, proud and happy all at once.
Two seconds later I walked onto the patio and a giant spider landed on my foot. Naturally, I freaked out in a very unwarrior-womanly fashion.
First there was a stuttered scream, smothered by fear and choked into a whisper- not unlike the squeak you might imagine from a mouse taught to speak machine gun…if you imagine such things. Simultaneously, there was leg movement similar to a flailing, kicking, hip-hop karate, quite different from the kicks I’m learning in my MMA class.
But that frickin’ spider was not letting go, and as I danced like Ralph Macchio being electrocuted while doing a high kick, trying in vain to shake the little devil off of my foot, I felt the pool deck under my heel disappear.
My senses returned to me instantly and I threw my body away from the pool, toes gripping the cement through flip flops, my head violently thrusting forward, and arms pumping. It flashed through my mind that I likely bore a strong resemblance to an Olympic speed skater, with none of the grace or fluidity. My arms still protectively held my phone and wine glass out in front of me, initially to protect them from the water, but I realized with horror that these precious items were once again in peril. While my jiggy-rocket-ski jump maneuver had saved me from falling backwards into the pool, I was now dangerously close to face planting onto the cement. I tried to summon the warrior woman within, but all she could give me was, “Don’t spill your wine and break another phone.”
I somehow managed to step away from the pool and looked down at my foot, staring with terror at the heavy, alien presence still clinging effortlessly to my metatarsals. My eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light in the pool area and the parasitic monster I’d imagined with 8 hideous, red eyes and dripping fangs finally came into view…
3 oaks leaves. 3 frickin oak leaves transformed me from “warrior woman” to Jerry Lewis doing a can-can on an old $.25 hotel vibrating mattress in 2 seconds.
This, morning I am just thankful to have remained dry, without a broken nose and of course not to have spilled my wine or broken another phone.
I can only credit my survival to the training I am receiving at Gladiators. For now I suppose I’m just a part time warrior woman…or maybe spiders and leaves are my kryptonite?
If you are seeking inspiration, or like I was, aren’t even sure you need inspiration, follow this amazing woman’s journey on Facebook and YouTube:
Anyone who knows me knows that I am resilient. In fact, I am probably resilient to a fault. Take the last few months; my husband was laid off from his lucrative job, getting another very quickly, though making far less money, but we managed to pick ourselves up and are making it work. No complaints. My carpal tunnel is so bad right now that even this post has taken me over a week to write, and our financial situation has ruled out medical treatment for a while. But that’s okay too, because I can do a lot to treat it on my own and I refuse to stop living my life.
There is more, but I won’t bore you with it. The point is that there is little in life that I have allowed to truly bowl me over. The last 2 and a half weeks have been a new experience for me and it’s a sad coincidence that the day I finally publish this post marks 11 years since the horrors of hurricane Katrina…
It’s been over 2 weeks now since Louisiana began battling historic flooding and the struggle still rages on. It’s hard to live in the midst of it and not be blind-sided by a multitude of emotions: Guilt for being relatively untouched, while neighbors not too far down the street are throwing out most of their belongings and some may even have to level their homes, starting over. Fear that we could have been next since the forecast calls for more rain every day for awhile and my emergency alerts would go off when the first drop would fall. Sadness, such sadness, over the loss of life and property. ANGER over the judgmental and ignorant comments appearing all over social media. FURY over the national news media basically ignoring us the first week of this tragedy and really continuing to do so. PRIDE for a state fighting the label of racism it’s worn for so long, where strangers of all creeds and colors are bearing each other up and helping, from clean up to life saving. SHOCK, mostly shock, that something this huge can still be happening in our home state.
Those aren’t just my feelings, but also those of others I’ve spoken to. I’d like to walk you through the last couple of weeks and give you a look around…
It was Thursday night, August 11, 2016 and here in Southern Louisiana we have crazy hot summers, so usually, an afternoon pop-up thunderstorm is a given. It started raining that evening and I thought nothing of it when it poured all night and then all day Friday. School had been cancelled due to expected thunderstorm activity, but I wasn’t worried since this happens sometimes down here.
On Friday morning I went to work in the garage, building a hot tub cover (it’s hideous, but functional) and did the thing I always tell myself NOT to do- worked without a radio. My kids were there, so we talked and worked in comfortable silence.
Yes, that’s a little rain out back
I stopped to take this shot during work
Jamie was due home at around 5:30 pm and I would pick him up in the same place I always do, just a mile from the house. He called to tell me he was almost there, but then told me to hold on. He was being detoured and couldn’t get where he needed to go. Police were blocking the road and he would call me back when he knew what was happening. I assumed some idiot had been speeding on the wet roadway and it was closed to clean up an accident. When he called back minutes later, he told me that he would have to back track 30 minutes to park because he couldn’t get through due to flooded roads being closed.
Below is drone footage of the truck stop he was thinking of returning to park:
Well, perhaps this was a storm to be concerned about… No problem. I told him I’d call the Walmart 2 miles from the house, get him permission to park there and be right over to pick him up. Eventually, he was able to find roads open to get him there and I hopped in the car to go retrieve my man.
Every road out of our neighborhood was flooded and there was no way I could get to him. He was forced to sleep in his rig in the Walmart parking lot with other truck drivers in the same boat (no pun intended). 2 miles away! My concern over what this storm could bring us went up a few notches.
I wasn’t scared of the storm, but the fact that roads were flooding and Jamie was a mere 2 miles away, unable to get home, rattled me. Alone with 2 kids, during 90 degree heat and horrible storms, with power failure likely…Ugh.
Luckily, our power failure lasted less than a minute, but because the T.V. antennae we ordered couldn’t be delivered with the road closures, I was forced to rely on the internet for my news. Let me tell you, that sh** is slow during storms!
What I could glean told me that towns around us were starting to flood and tons of roads were being closed. Sleep was hard to come by that night and my kids were scared, despite my assurances that we live on one of the highest spots in the parish and that I would be up all night checking on things.
The boys and I woke early, Andrew delighted to tell me that he had heard me go out every hour to check the property and water levels (I didn’t tell him that it wasn’t every hour). The rain was still pouring, harder and more constant than I’d ever seen, and I’ve lived through several hurricanes, including Andrew (the storm, not the child, in this case).
For the first time since we moved into this house 2 years ago, the pool was overflowing, as was the hot tub I’d emptied days earlier. Thankfully, whoever built this house was a drainage genius and we were still dry.
Jamie decided he was going to walk home from Walmart. He would make his way down the railroad tracks near our home, but would first have to wade through hip and chest deep water to reach the tracks. He later told me he was able to “balance beam on some concrete construction barricades in the manner of an Olympic gymnast” to keep mostly dry. He must have been pretty scared for us, but didn’t let it show, as only he can do. He had been watching the news in his truck and felt like he had to get home to us. Though I’m so glad he did, it had to be pretty scary news to make him leave the safety of his dry rig, risking serious injury or worse, to walk home to us. My knight in shining, soggy armor.
Being the concerned and loving wife I am, with a dash of tomboy thrown in, I suited up to go get him on the 4 wheeler, rather than force him to walk the full 2 miles. Sadly, he had moved the keys (why do men do this?!?) and it took me over an hour to find them (on the lawnmower. Huh?), and as I was preparing to head out, he walked in the door.
He was soaked, but home safely. He told me that the entire area where he parked was under anywhere from a foot of water to 5 feet and that he’d hardly seen a soul. There were no cars out because people couldn’t get anywhere without a boat at this point.
He took a much needed hot shower and then we braved the moments where the weather changed from heavy downpour to hard drizzle briefly to drive across the street to check the flooded roadways surrounding our home. If, God forbid, evacuation orders came, we needed to have a way out.
The road across the railroad tracks, driven every day by thousands of people, was more of a raging river than a flooded roadway and a large section of it was washed away. Somehow, this really conveyed the magnitude of what was happening in our area.
Mandatory curfews started going into effect and the rain just kept on coming. Something so many of the Judgy-Joes don’t seem to understand is that a large portion of what was flooding was not in a flood zone. We are not in a flood zone, but this is what our highway looked like:
I’m not sure how many thousands of shares this video got when I posted it to our local news station’s page, but I know it’s not because of the awesome quality or commentary. I think it was people trying to wrap their heads around what was happening here in our own towns, our own communities. It was happening to our families, our neighbors and our friends. It wasn’t those poor souls in New Orleans or Baton Rouge- close enough to leave us shaken, but far enough away to give us a sense of safety. It was happening to all of us.
I believe the death toll at this point was at 9 and there were still people and animals being rescued. The destruction we saw on the internet was mind boggling.
By Sunday morning cabin fever was starting to set in and I worried that my husband would swim to his rig, if need be, to retrieve some things out of it, so I was thankful that one lane on an alternate highway had opened up. We rode in stunned silence, taking in the destruction our non-flood zone area had been dealt. Debris and standing water were everywhere, people with hollow eyes passed us by, watermark levels on buildings were a few feet high in areas and some homes and businesses still had water coming through the doors. These are just pictures from our neighborhood:
2 houses down our street
A neighbor’s yard, 2 houses over
My boys made the best of flooded streets
Another neighbor’s Yard
Jamie surveys a flooded highway near the house
The scope of our situation became clearer as the rain began falling hard again, so Jamie ran into Walmart, grabbed a T.V. antenna and we headed straight home.
The neighborhood kids made the best of things. Mine took out an old boat with friends and sank it repeatedly, while some of the older kids in the neighborhood rode up and down the street on 4 wheelers, pulling each other in the ditches on knee boards. I’m sure most of us saw this video my cousin’s friend posted as the storm was getting geared up (before the severity of the situation became clear) since the Olympics were on:
Maybe because our television viewing was limited, as was phone and other service, plus we had a rare opportunity to have all of us together as a family for more than one day, but I still didn’t really understand how big this thing really was and was glad for the time spent connecting without technology. Or maybe the shock was kicking in and my overactive self-preservation instinct was protecting me, but it just didn’t seem real.
That night I hooked up our antenna and again delved into the internet due to a bad bout of insomnia. I was again shocked by all that I saw. Interstates closed and washed away, homes under water, to the roof lines in some cases, people being saved seconds before drowning, livestock and pets in peril, 11 dead at this point and lives changed forever by mother nature’s power. For the first time, I was pretty scared, but I saw some things which restored my faith in my fellow Louisianans. This video in particular made my heart swell with pride:
All creeds, all colors, all orientations had become “one people,” and I think it’s a tragedy that these examples of unity were not front and center in the national media every day!
And let’s not forget those awesome folks in the Cajun Navy who have rescued thousands when others couldn’t! Have tissues handy.
Monday, Jamie was able to go to work and left early, leaving me with a growing fear and sense of powerlessness. He had to go, and believe me, I am grateful he is such a diligent provider. I just meant that the full force of what was happening was starting to hit me hard. Rivers were rising all over, some not set to crest until days from then and already 6-10 feet over major flood stage.
The schools were cancelled and the rain kept falling, but the people of Louisiana rallied around each other unlike anything I’ve ever seen personally, outside of the horrors of 9/11. Some shelters were asking people to stop donating certain items because they were overstocked and my friends at Animal Aid For Vermillion Area were wading through chest deep water to rescue cats, dogs, horses, llamas and more.
The Cajun Navy had had hundreds of boats on the water at all hours, rescuing trapped people and animals and delivering needed supplies. I didn’t speak to anyone who wasn’t out helping or donating their time, supplies, or just simply their prayers.
That night, I again made the mistake of searching on the internet and social media for evidence that our story was getting national attention from the press and found very little. What little I did find was peppered with comments from ignorant people wondering why we would bother to rebuild in flood zones, or saying that the rich people losing their $300,000 homes were being introduced to karma, pictures of floating caskets, people saying that this “red state was sure not opposed to big government now,” many jack wagons stating that the caskets were old news and not part of a 500 or 1000 year flood because they saw that during Katrina, and moronic, judgmental zealots saying that the wrath of God was falling on this state. My blood began to boil.
I may not have mentioned this, but much, if not most, of the flooded areas ARE NOT IN FLOOD ZONES AND HAVE NEVER FLOODED BEFORE. EVER. The amount of rain that fell in a short period of time has rarely been seen since Noah’s days. In fact, the Baton Rouge area, which was incredibly hard hit, was where many people who were evacuated from Katrina were taken for rescue. It’s been estimated that 90% of Denham Springs was damaged. The people who were saying that we all just need to pack up and move don’t seem to understand the whole flood zone thing, but more importantly, don’t seem to understand the whole Louisiana cultural pride thing and love of the area which keeps so many here.
If you follow this blog, you’ve seen the pictures of the beauty we are surrounded by. What I can’t show you in pictures is how many of the people here live in the same neighborhoods as their parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. I can’t photograph their traditional weekly dinners, their time together sipping drinks on the porch or the weekends they go as a family to a fais do do in the park together. I don’t have pictures of the gumbo they cook for one another during sickness or surgeries, and I can’t provide evidence of the lines of family generally waiting outside hospital rooms when the need arises. These are not easily walked away from in the best of times and it’s far harder when you know you are needed.
As for people being unimpressed with caskets floating and the amount of water our “laughable 1000 year flood” brought us, a thousand year flood doesn’t mean it only happens every thousand years. It means this 1,000-year event has a 0.1% chance of happening in any year, Pretty good odds, I’d say. Katrina was hell on Earth and the loss of life was horrible, but that was also a much smaller area than the 20 parishes (counties) now declared disasters. Roughly, 110,000 homes are estimated to have been damaged, but the number is climbing and the death toll stands at 13. Estimates say that the damage stands at about 21 billion dollars, but of course this can’t include businesses losing money until they can get back on their feet again, if ever. Again, many people who survived Katrina moved to these areas to escape the odds of a repeat and have now lost everything once again.
People went to bed Thursday night and woke Friday morning to literally feet of water encroaching upon, or in their homes. Preparation was not an option and I ask you to imagine how most areas would handle this kind of rainfall?
Here’s a map showing the parishes declared disasters, but keep in mind these are only parishes declared disasters. Remember that the surrounding parishes sustained heavy damages as well and some are still flooded and this flood was an equal opportunity destroyer. It didn’t just take the rich, it took the poor, the middle class and all in its path.
To the wrath of God people I would say that more people communed with God and represented him over the last ten days than they themselves will ever hope to see or achieve in a lifetime. Take a seat, judgers. Whether or not you believe in God, compassion and love have reigned here.
Many on social media asked, “Why is the president playing golf instead of visiting Louisiana when Bush was berated for just flying over after Katrina?” Others insisted it was because the governor told him he’d just be in the way and take away much needed manpower. Whichever side you choose, people weren’t too concerned with what Louisianans thought, and just days, or hours in, were already using our tragedy to further their political and other agendas.
No one was bothering to ask the people here in Louisiana what we thought. Had they done so, they would have heard that the prevailing opinion was “keep the government out of our way. We have first responders, police and each other. We’re good and there isn’t time to waste.” I began to think that people who weren’t in the thick of it and had the strong opinions I mentioned above, should take long walks off short piers.
Over the course of the first week, the water in many places rose and more people flooded. I was in the towns of Kaplan and Abbeville on Thursday August 18 and got the following photos. What the photos don’t capture, and people don’t usually talk about after flooding is the smell. Rot, decay, fish and more horrible odors surround you at all times. They say smells conjure the most powerful and deepest buried memories, that olfactory is the strongest sense. I’ll never forget the smells and you know people trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered dreams will cringe at the slightest hint of those odors for the rest of their lives.
Flooded home in Kaplan, LA 8/18/16
Flooded home in Kaplan, LA 8/18/16
Donation overload at the Shelter in Abbeville, LA 8/18/16
Homes being emptied of destroyed possessions in Abbeville, LA 8/18/16
Kaplan, LA 8/18/16
The number of people in shelters was going down a bit, but there are, as of today, August 29, 2016, still thousands unable to go home.
Sunday, 8/21, the boys and I went out to try to help a little. All we could do was hand out ice cold drinks and snacks to first responders and people doing clean up. That is what I’ve done all week (my stupid health issues), so don’t think I’m any kind of hero. There are thousands of real heroes out there gutting flooded houses, rescuing and more. I just felt like I had to do something or I would go crazy. Survivor’s guilt? I don’t know, but I also wanted the kids to understand what was happening. Looking at pictures and walking amidst the devastation are totally different. Praying for the suffering is great, and handing someone a cold drink or a bag of chips might seem small, however seeing the tired, but grateful smile on the face of the suffering homeowner who’s lost everything, or on the face of the exhausted first responder, after this small gesture, is a lesson in loving others not soon forgotten by a child…or anyone.
We were shocked that main roads were still flooded and to see a lot of water still standing. Mosquito breeding grounds were everywhere and talk of Zika and West Nile Virus were already hitting the news. Things looked like they could be drying up, but it was still devastating.
Andrew talking to the officer on duty
A St. Martinville, LA highway still closed 9 days in
Flooded in St. Martinville, LA 8/21/16
A displaced visitor in the pool 8/20/16
Visitor rescued and skeptical of my intentions
Other visitors didn’t mind the rain
On Monday, August 22, I dropped the boys off at school and headed to the town that my family hales from. St. Martinville (the highway closed in the above picture is the main way into town) is an historical and beautiful place in which the local residents take much pride. Main Street and the downtown area looked pretty good, but soon I came to other flooded roads and was shocked that a large portion of homes still couldn’t even think of clean up, let alone rebuilding, because they were still flooded. I returned on Friday, August 26 and found that most of these places were still flooded. This was 2 weeks after the nightmare started.
10 days in St. Martinville, LA 8/22/16
No wake zone signs on the side of the road
A home still flooded in St. Martinville, LA 80/22/16
A home likely not expected to flood, but precautions taken and then abandoned. St. Martinville, LA 8/22/16
Lake Martin Bird Sanctuary St. Martinville, LA 8/26/16
Big alligator on the side of the highway eating an armadillo
The fact that there are still thousands of people living in hotels, with friends or family and in shelters right now, makes it very hard to understand why the situation is almost, once again, being completely ignored by the national media. There are areas like Loreauvile, where flood waters won’t subside for a month and kids are getting from their homes to the bus stop by paddle boat…if their homes are liveable. I get that this is an election year, that Ryan Lochte was an idiot and I have no interest in a political, or any debate, but I would ask you why? Why is the media focusing on the issues that divide us- politics, race, religion, etc. Not too long ago, all eyes were on Louisiana for very different reasons, but now that we have managed to destroy our differences and come together, there is barely a camera to be seen. Is good news in the face of devastation that boring? Is the unity we are all professing to fight for not that interesting when it actually happens? Yes, there will always be small-minded, racist morons in the world, but they seem to have lost their voice in my home state. That’s news in and of itself, people!
I write this asking you to remember Louisiana today. Remember us in your thoughts, your prayers, your donations. Adopt a pet who was displaced during the storms and know that we are still here, still helping each other, but still hurting. Reach out to those in need-hundreds of thousands have been touched by this in some way! The end of this one will not be for a long time, if ever, for many people.
I leave you with another video and an article. The video captures the tragedy of the last few weeks and the tenacity of the wonderful people. The article captures the humor and again the tenacity of the Louisiana spirit.
Tens of thousands of Louisianans have had to throw away much, if not all that is precious to them-baby pictures, photo albums, wedding dresses, rare books, furniture, everything down to the studs. It started like this-
And yet in the midst of the growing racial tensions in our country, one of the most notoriously racist states in the country shed its reputation, found love and was virtually ignored when we did this-
When the rain stopped, thousands faced this-
Many homes are still flooded, so they wait for the water to subside, check on things from time to time, pray, and do this-
If they were “fortunate” enough for the water to subside, they had to do this-
Now they wait for insurance adjusters or FEMA and live like this-
While their suffering continues, the national media still ignores their plight and focuses on this-
I do not suggest that none of the above are important. Obviously, most are, but come on, folks! We are one nation and there are stories which need to be told to raise awareness as to what is a continuing struggle fortens of thousands in Louisiana. They still need our help and I thought all of the fighting and focus of the press was to spotlight suffering and to bring about unity… My 2 cents.
I’m back! It’s been a wonderful and grueling summer at the same time, so I think I am rested up enough to tell you what is in the works around here. The last month and a half has been spent in a frenzy of work on our house, patio and yard. Since Jamie’s layoff, he’s been freed from the bonds of his oilfield salary and we’ve reflected on what we want our next chapter to look like. Together we have decided to sell our house here in Louisiana and head north to Ohio, where he was born and raised. For the 12 plus years we have been married, we have always lived near my family and now it is his turn. It’s time for our boys to get to know his family better. They are a close-knit group of wonderful people, so I am totally excited!
Louisiana is beautiful and I love my family here, but we all miss the seasons, though many people call me crazy for this. That’s okay, because I can think of few things as wonderful as watching it snow over a hot cup of coffee, a cozy fire, chili, soups and gumbos on cold nights, white Christmases, autumn leaves, hay rides and trick or treating while not sweating and being swarmed by mosquitoes, rain that cools rather than creating oppressive humidity…and so on. Yes, I love many things about Louisiana, but I miss the northern part of this beautiful country and I want my kids to know it now that they are old enough to remember it all.
Anyway, the boys and I drove up to Ohio a few weeks ago and looked at some properties:
a fish farm,
a retired dairy farm,
a beautiful bed and breakfast,
Jamie’s best friend’s mother’s remodeled century farmhouse,
and more. There are several possible places in which we can see ourselves building a life where we are able to live off the land and teach our kids the value of a good day’s work.
My kids are amazing, but let’s face it, we live in a society teaching them to stare down at their phones rather than look up at the stars. I should note that my kids don’t have phones yet, but all of their friends seem to, so it’s hard to live in a suburban area and teach them what we deem important.
The thing that really struck me while we were up there was how different things were because of the environment. My boys have cousins their age there and played outside with them from almost dawn to dusk. They built a fort, rode scooters, caught fireflies, explored and more, all with no fear of total dehydration, snakes, fire ants or being carried away by mosquitoes. Here in Louisiana, it’s been such a hot summer that, unless they are in the pool, I’m reluctant to leave them playing outside for too long. They rarely want to go out anyway, so it’s a constant chore trying to keep us busy in the air conditioning. Even at night, where it might actually cool down a little, I’m running to shut the chicken coop like I’m being shot at because of all the mosquitoes.
Anyway, we are looking at a simple efficient home with enough acreage to be able to grow most of our own food and perhaps earn a little money from the property. I can’t do that here in Louisiana because I seem to be unable to fend off the pest of the month in my garden and, though I’m not opposed to using neem oil, seven dust, DE, etc., I feel like we would all glow in the dark if I used what I needed to for successful pest control. Yes, people have offered help and advice, but I am willing to admit that, other than the basics like tomatoes and cucumbers, I’ve given up. Besides, once I can grow more things AND I have a basement, LOOK OUT! Canning paradise!
So after much, much, much work and flirting with being institutionalized for exhaustion and almost losing it, we finally listed our house last week. Now we can only sit back and pray that it sells quickly. We’ve done a ton of work and this place has a lot to offer, so even though it will be sad to say goodbye, I think we might just pull this off. We are in a desirable neighborhood with great neighbors, close to amenities and have more acreage than is normally available here, so fingers crossed!
Now you know. I hope to be much better at posting now that we are in the “wait and see” mode, but I have a few projects in the works. Hopefully, I will remember to take before and after pictures for you this time!
It’s time. Time for me to fly the nerd flag…just a little. I have so enjoyed the cooking part (my waistline will back me up on this), but today I’m going deeper.
I am currently weathering the wicked storm that is raising a preteen boy, thanking God he’s not a girl every day. I’m not knocking all teenage girls, but I was one. I know it could be far worse for me and I long ago accepted full responsibility for my father’s gray hair. Anyway, we’ve reached the stage where I have apparently become just shy of “idiot” and I think he sometimes wonders how I manage to feed myself. The words of wisdom I offer fall on deaf ears much of the time, so I just have to hope that the seeds I’ve sown have taken strong root.
Okay, most of the time he’s a great kid, but I realized that there are some lessons he just won’t hear from me anymore so I began looking for other options. Yes, we go to church. Yes, he plays sports. Yes, he has some friends I feel are pretty good kids, but I realized there was another medium. Film. It all started with my being a history, classic TV and film buff, and simply wanting to share my favorites with them. I soon realized that certain films had the power to teach valuable lessons which I could not. That shows like “The Wonder Years” could reach him and make him feel less different than my assurances could. It’s hard to admit this, but it’s true.
Aside from that, I have also been thinking about how certain TV and films touched me and I think as parents we owe it to our kids to show them that the music, TV and movies of the past have great value and artistry. Plus, there’s nothing cooler than your kids joining your “fandom.”
I know I’ll miss a bunch and there will be a part 2, 3, 4, etc., but at least I won’t make you click through 25 individual slides like some sites. I should also point out that this is not my collection of the greatest nerd movies of all time, just a few with some good life lessons.
Check the parent guides by clicking on the IMDB link in the title to make sure they are appropriate for your children. Some of these are best for older kids. You be the judge.
Here’s the Suburban Homestead Nerd’s list of must see Cinema for our kids and us to learn a little something, in no particular order.
Duh. Did you have any doubt that this would be on the list? I’m lumping the first three together because they are like Lays Potato Chips. You can’t watch just one.
I remember being 6 years old when I saw the original film for the first time. We were in Bangladesh in a small theater (dining room outfitted with folding chairs) at the American Club and from the moment that first music note sounded, I was mesmerized. I’m sure that if we’d had a VCR, my mother would have had this movie looping 24-7 just to get me to sit still for more that 5 minutes.
Episode 4 taught me that the universe was a very big place and that, if a whiny guy from Tatooine could become a Jedi, I could be whatever I wanted.
Episode 5 taught me that true friends will do anything for each other, loyalty was a beautiful trait and that Darth Vader was the biggest bada$$ in the galaxy.
Episode 6 taught me that good always wins, Ewoks are cute and solidified my belief that you should never hire a Storm Trooper as your body guard.
This movie blew me away as a kid and blew my kids away last night. It’s sweet, it’s gentle and it teaches us to look outside of our world and ourselves, to empathize with those we don’t normally even notice; the elderly, the lost, the lonely. Most of all, it’s magical without the crazy, theater rocking action and violence we’ve grown so accustomed to in these times.
I know, I know, what the heck can our kids learn from this one, right? Ha! Let me tell you! I’m a bit of a stickler for watching ratings and parent guides, and I get a little tired of all the gore, sex and cursing that we can’t seem to make movies that aren’t cartoons without anymore. No, I’m not a prude, but my kids didn’t seem to think a movie could scare or mystify you if it wasn’t full color gross like many of their friends watch.
They did not move through most of this movie, which is no small feat in this house. At the end of Psycho, they both turned to me with the most dumbfounded expressions I’ve ever seen on their faces.
Psycho taught my kids the value of a real psychological thriller…and that a boy’s mother is his best friend.
Yes, that’s broad, but I can’t always pick a favorite, so I’m lumping them together. I would strongly recommend reading all the books first, but these movies taught us about friendship, loyalty, standing up for what is right even when you are the only one willing to do so, to never judge a book by it’s cover, the value of family and so much more. And then there’s that fun magic stuff.
It’s an absolute must to read the book for people young and old. You owe it to yourselves and your kids, but the movie is a wonder as well.
In it we learn the value of all life and the ugly truth about the past as it was in our country. We have to remember, lest we forget and are destined to repeat history. We also see the kind of person we should all strive to be; one who will stand up for what is right at any cost, to teach our children to be decent human beings.
I still can’t believe I live in a world which lost the comedic genius that was John Candy as early as it did, but I am thankful for what he was able to leave us.
This movie taught us that anyone can change and that, while it’s never too late to grow up, you might as well enjoy the ride. It also teaches us about imperfect family love, that big pancakes rock and solidified my distrust of clowns, though this one was at least not homicidal. I’m kidding! I’m kidding! Fingers crossed.
With a soundtrack able to make you weep, performances by DeNiro and Irons which are astounding, a message of courage and the power of the faithful human spirit, this film will move you at your very core.
This movie might not have been an Oscar contender, but it was a wonderful coming of age tale that taught us you are never too old to be completely cool. It is a nice example of being comfortable in your own skin.
The iconic film which taught us that true love does indeed conquer all, friendship can survive anything, grandparents are cool and that you might have a shot against a Sicilian, even if death is on the line. Oh, and watch out for R.O.U.S.es.
If there is a more moving soundtrack, I’ve yet to hear it…okay, The Mission is a close second, oh, and Rob Roy, but you get my drift. Add to that a powerful tale based on the true story of some of the unsung heroes of the Civil War, with unbelievable performances from some of Hollywood’s best and you have a recipe for greatness!
This movie still blows me away. These brave men volunteered and fought prejudice from the South and their own Union Army. The lessons are many: brotherhood, equality, perseverance, bravery, and history. I can’t say enough about this one.
Here’s another war movie (usually not my thing because I am far too easy a crier in my old age) teaching us little known history about one of the bloodiest battles of the first World War. Bravery, patriotism, loyalty and family are just a few of the lessons in this moving coming of age story. You will never forget this film.
We moved almost every year when I was growing up. My father’s work took us all over the world, so I could totally understand Daniel Laruso’s life as an outsider in this movie. I learned to stand up to bullies and to work hard for my dreams, but sadly, I never had a Mr. Miyagi.
This was one of the first movies to teach me that black and white could still be awesome! I saw what all the fuss was about surrounding Marylin- her beauty and sweetness, and fell in love with Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis. I laughed my way to figuring out that at our core, most of us will do the right thing when push comes to shove and that love really can conquer all.
This movie taught us more about love between two people in 8 minutes than just about any other has ever done in its entirety. The rest of the movie is funny, sweet, beautiful and teaches us that we can be heroes at any age.
Friendship. No matter who you are, how big a nerd or how awkward, this movie gives you hope. We all need people and if the Goonies can find fellowship, we all can. I would also like to find a pirate ship, please.
In a culture where we seem to value youth, technology and beauty, this film is another reminder of how awesome the elderly are. Friendship, loyalty, the pursuit of happiness and loss are just a few takeaways from this timeless classic.
While definitely not for small children, this movie is one of the most powerful when it comes to teaching honor. The love between Jessica Lang’s character and Liam Neeson’s is beautiful. You will learn of the evils men can do and be thankful for the good men who rise up to defeat those evils. And the soundtrack is awesome!
This movie never ceases to inspire me. I think it gave my kids a glimpse at what parents feel and that we never stop feeling this way. Love, loyalty, loss, heartbreak, joy, redemption, lost causes, victories…it’s all here.
This movie offers, in my opinion, the greatest EVER performances from Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro. I am never unmoved when I watch it.
Never stop hoping, even adults feel awkward and out of their element, always fight for what you believe to be right, don’t take this beautiful life and world for granted….just a few things you will take away from this one.
This movie is one of the few about the Holocaust that isn’t terribly graphic, but is still unbelievably powerful. As a parent, I was inspired by what this man did to get his son through one of the most hellish times in human history. As children, my boys saw what a parent will do to protect their child. Breathtaking.
As a kid, I remember chomping at the bit to grow up. This film helped my boys realize that maybe being a kid isn’t so bad and that maybe being with the popular kids isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Also, any film where a room full of people dance to Thriller is ok in my book.
Good Saturday morning to ya!’ I apologize to you for missing Friday’s post, especially since it was to be a really good one (at least, I’m sure it would have been). However, yesterday I walked outside to open the greenhouse at 6 am and heard a chorus of chaos coming from the chicken coop. I quickly discovered that a raccoon had gotten in and that we’d lost a hen. Try as I might to be “tough homesteader gal,” I was fairly upset. I can’t believe that I didn’t hear the racket from in the house and what a terrifying ordeal that must have been! And wouldn’t you know, it was the one hen we actually named?
After their nightmare, only one chicken would leave the coop before 10 am and my big, bad Roster Cogburn stayed up in his roost until almost noon.
Naturally, Jamie wasn’t here so I had to deal with it myself and then my ADHD took over. Cleaning up the disaster led to pressure washing the deck which led to picking up fallen branches around the yard and burning them. That led to cleaning the pool which led to building a table/shelf unit for Jamie to use in his truck sleeper. I picked up Jamie and then the whole family headed out to shore up the coop with enough hardware cloth to keep out a zombie hoard.
Then I made dinner on the grill. The end.
Anyone else notice that the big stuff usually hits the fan when the spouse is out of town? People call me a Renaissance woman, but the truth is that you have to learn to do it all when your husband is always gone. I don’t mind, I promise, but curse that Murphy’s Law!
Anyway, I’ll be back Monday, so you all have a wonderful weekend.
P.S. This may not be my finest post as I am writing it on my phone, in bed, propped up with pillows and a heating pad on my back. Hmm. I wonder why my back hurts?
Good morning from stormy Louisiana! I am feeling pretty good today because I do love myself a good thunderstorm, in spite of a trauma I suffered earlier…I headed out into the downpour, opting not to wear my Gorton’s fish stick guy rain slicker (mistake), to feed the chickens today and all was right with my little world. I love the rain on my face and in my hair, the scent of clean earth and the way the greenery changes color when lightening shoots across the sky during these storms. The raincoat feels like it blocks too many senses with which to enjoy these things sometimes…if that makes sense.
I guess I need to stop here and tell you a secret. Like all nerds before me, I believe I have something of a super power. No, I am not delusional, but I really do have the ability to walk through a spider web where none are expected or have been before. If ever you are blazing a trail and need that person to lead the way solely for the purpose of spider web discovery, I’m your “man.” Indiana Jones would have loved me! I’m not bragging here, just stating fact. The down side is that I loathe spiders and, as tough as I think I am, those little eight-legged monsters can turn me from bad a$$ pioneer woman into a break dancing, freaking little girl in an instant, making the people in this video look like gladiators (sorry for a little language in the video).
Anyway, as I walked out to the coop today, enjoying the weather, my shins suddenly felt resistance and I was sent sprawling into the mud. As I fell forward, time seemed to slow to a crawl and thoughts swirled through my head: I thanked God that my face had not made contact with this web, I was also grateful for soft, muddy ground on which to land and not the concrete I’d just stepped off of, and OMG! What kind of mutant creature makes a web so strong that it can knock me off of my feet!?!
I gave zero thought to who might be watching this spectacle as I sprang to my feet, using my best karate, break dancing and gymnastics moves to beat the crap out of myself, assuring that I had not picked up a hitchhiker. It was exactly like this, but add mud and rain into the mix and subtract flaming shoes. Skip to 54 seconds if you don’t want to hear most of the bad language and hit the restroom first so you don’t wet your pants laughing (Note if you skip ahead; he had spilled gas on his shoes)
This strange dance lasted for what felt like hours, but likely was only seconds, until I felt I was spider free and that I might survive this horror. I was actually out of breath and thought a coronary might be what was for breakfast today when I stumbled back into the house.
My children immediately ran to my side, certain I was in real trouble, but I assured them that I would recover…in time. Yes, I was muddy and out of breath, but no, I had not been wrestling a prowler or bear at the chicken coop. My neighbors likely think that I am plagued by an aggressive ghost, am a martial arts champion, or I’m just plain crazy, but they’ve seen this display many times, so I’m not going to sweat it.
What does this have to do with rosemary potatoes? Not a frickin’ thing, but I had to get that off of my chest. Talking it through promotes healing.
Any-hoo, these are a nice, quick treat and a delicious side when you don’t have an hour to roast them in the oven. Enjoy.
1 & 1/2 pounds red or white potatoes, peeled or unpeeled, cut in lengthwise quarters and then 1/2 inch pieces
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2-3/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 TBSP minced garlic or garlic powder
2 TBSP dried (or fresh) rosemary (I grind my dried rosemary in the food processor or with a mortal and pestle to avoid eating twigs)
1-2 TBSP butter, if needed
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat and then add the potatoes, stirring to coat them with the oil. Add all but the butter and stir/toss to coat the potatoes.
Cook, stirring often, for about 15-20 minutes, adding butter, if needed to prevent sticking, evenly coat the potatoes with the seasonings and promote a nice crust on the potatoes. Potatoes are finished when they are crusty on the outside and perfect on the inside.
Serve alone or drizzle with your favorite sauce or condiment. A nice compliment to almost any meat main dish.
Well, I am just about recovered from my two weeks playing hostess. Meaning, I am trying to remember how to do things like drive a car, cook and clean, since my company let me do none of these things. To get back into the groove, last night I had the BEST recipe to prepare for you all and was ready to blow your socks off! Sadly, I realized at 4 pm, that the recipe started off in a 6 hour slow cooker. So, be ready, because tomorrow is when I will actually blow your socks off.
What are we to do in a situation like this; when the oven quits or we just simply blow it? Quick Hamburger or Tuna Helper? Grilled cheese sandwiches? No. The last minute meal of choice around here is the Super Smörgåsbord. Bringing family, young and old, running into the dining room with joy in their hearts and smiles on their faces for many years, this is the ultimate way to clean out your fridge. I mean, the ultimate way to satisfy any palate.
For the last two weeks we have had almost constant company and my allergies have been kicked into high gear. Before you pity me, know that I love entertaining. Having company gives me a chance to get to know people better, share my home and family, reconnect with old friends and enjoy the place I live. Having allergies and pollen blizzards aren’t as fun
Anyway, our friend Frank left today after a nice, quiet visit. We did all the touristy things we could and ate like kings. My favorite part was driving all over Acadiana with the windows down while singing along to great music on the radio. We couldn’t have asked for better weather or more laughs.
One of Frank’s favorite things when he comes here is to have Sunday brunch at the Blue Dog Cafe. For about $25 a head you get the unlimited buffet of your dreams, free mimosas, live music and a satisfied, full belly. The restaurant is born from the art of George Rodrigue, made famous by his Blue Dog series of paintings, and the food is unique fusion. A little Cajun and…I don’t know. Whether you are a fan of his work or not, the food and atmosphere won’t disappoint. Oh, and have the Louisiana Purchase!
Crab Cakes Benedict
The Louisiana Purchase!
The Dessert Table
Naturally, we saw some of my favorite Louisiana natives.
I know you have guessed that I am a bird nerd, so here are a few shots I took over the last week.
Little Blue Heron
Bird City at Jungle Gardens
We were able to head to Cypermort Point and saw a giant, but camera shy, hog, watched the sea grass sway in the breeze and we inhaled the clean sea air.
Frank was tempted, but opted to buy the shrimp and go with a flat top cut instead.
The trees are all so amazing in the basin and our greenery so diverse in beauty.
I’ll never tire of this
We watched the worst movie ever and relaxed by the pool a lot. We went to dinner at the Sizzling Monkey and the Parks Cracklin Festival, but otherwise gave into our age and retired by 9pm most nights without shame. This allowed me to see the misty sunrise the other day.
Porgy my Corgi chillin’ poolside
I would say I am recharged and ready to get back onto my blogging horse. I am so blessed in family and friendship and glad to be reminded that, even though nothing will replace my Rocky Mountains, I live in a beautiful place.