Catfish, Honey

June 25 was declared National Catfish Day (for farm-raised catfish) by President Ronald Reagan in 1987. Farm-raised catfish doesn’t fish well by us, coming from Louisiana, near Lac Des Allemands and Spahr’s Restaurant on Highway 90, in the heart of the Catfish Capital of the Universe, so decreed by Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards in 1975. Where else can you nosh on some of the sweetest catfish you will ever taste other than in a converted gas station that overlooks a picturesque bayou filled with alligators. Des Allemands, LA is the place and home of an annual Catfish Festival to go along with their “out of this world” catfish title.

A St. Cloud, Florida restaurant gives wild catfish a very good try, no farm-raised catfish here either. Their catfish are imported from Lake Okeechobee and other local bodies of water. The restaurant, like Spahr’s is a throwback to another era, but they boast a long list of famous people who have dined there. Our names did not make the list.

We were in the area to purchase local honey from 3Beez Honey Farm, from their small storefront off Grape Avenue in St. Cloud. 3Beez, in oBeeur opinion, has the purest, best tasting honey in the area.

On the way home after the honey buy, we stopped at the St. Cloud restaurant for lunch. Catfish entrees were half price in honor of National Catfish Day. We hit a small jackpot with the size of the restaurant’s abundant portions, bringing half a meal home to our refrigerator.

We reminisced about dear friends now living in Georgia who love this restaurant.

Pass the catfish, honey. It’s been a good day.

Travel Adventures, on the Road in Charleston, SC

Industrial Fumes, Sluggish Drains, and Wasps

The afternoon we checked into our hotel, it was filled with young baseball teams and Sweet 16 Party guests. The hotel was overflowing with people, young and old. Leaving for dinner, we watched eight moms in trendy boots and casual slacks walk through the parking lot. Welcome to Charleston. Our dinner was at a place receiving high marks on a website we frequent when traveling. My highest marks for this establishment were for my table location. I faced the women’s restroom.

The next morning we drove to one of the historic areas of Charleston, leaving our hotel room window open for the day. Returning to our room after sightseeing, a chemical smell stung my nose the second my husband opened the door. He didn’t notice. I hurriedly re-opened the window and door, propping them open to get rid of the odor. I called the front desk. They sent the housekeeping director to see us. She said, “Oh, now I remember, there was a bunch of wasps in the room. Maintenance sprayed to kill them.” I thought great, now what? She offered us dinner while she brought in an ozone machine to deodorize our room. “Give me 45 minutes,” she said. “This is a powerful machine.” The odor still lingered when we returned from dinner. Deciding to change rooms to get away from the smell, we quietly moved to the vacant room next door during a lively reception two doors from our now chemically enhanced room. The door to the reception was open. Reception guests probably didn’t realize that a nearby neighbor had moved.

View from Fleet's Landing Restaurant, Charleston

View from Fleet’s Landing Restaurant, Charleston

The next morning, my husband took his shower in a growing pool of water. The tub drain was clogged. He went to breakfast leaving me to wait for maintenance to clear the drain before I showered. A mid-thirty year old man who could have been a double for actor Peter Lorre arrived. He left the security latch open, keeping his hands clasped like a clamshell both times he walked out of the bathroom carrying something. “The drain was clogged with hair. I cleaned it out, he said.” I imagined the dripping water from his clamshell hands hitting the carpet like breadcrumbs dropping through a hole in the bottom of a bag. Never forget to pack flip flops in case a Peter Lorre look alike shows up posing as a maintenance man.

The maid arrives early. “I’ll need five minutes,” I said. I open the door to leave, she is sitting on the couch, in the smelly dark room we evacuated the evening before. I interrupt her time on her cell phone to tell her I am leaving. I check both ends of the hall to make a quick dash for the elevator. I’m going to Starbucks, looking forward to finding some normal people.

Night three, we discovered that the toilet leaks Our friendly neighbors are hosting another reception. We can’t change rooms. An unsuspecting guest has occupied the fumigated, now ozonated room we evacuated. We’re sleeping with the window open, thinking the wasps that survived the Peter Lorre and associates fumigation will be sleeping unless the neighbor’s party wakes them.

Buy Local

Buy Local

A trip to Port Canaveral last Friday included lunch at a restaurant featuring fresh Florida fish. Both of us scarfed down the delicious Cobia (lemon fish) sandwich on a pretzel roll. Locally caught, very fresh fish. The trip’s purpose was to scout out my husband’s planned fishing trip on Wednesday.

A fresh fish market at Port Canaveral

A fresh fish market at Port Canaveral

Buy Local.  Question your Supplier

Buy Local. Question your Supplier

A few days after our Port Canaveral trip, I stopped at a specialty market to purchase fish for dinner. I purchased tuna imported from Indonesia. I avoid farmed fish, salmon, talipia (aka Frankenfish), catfish, and any other farm raised fish which drives my husband slightly crazy. The store was offering a deep discount for “fresh frozen” wild salmon though by 1:30 in the afternoon, they were sold out. I asked for a rain check for the “fresh frozen WILD King Salmon.”

Most intriguing was a sign on avocados at the store. “Fresh from Mexico” it read. Living in Florida, I wonder why grocers don’t offer more “Fresh from Florida” avocados?

Fresh from Mexico??

Fresh from Mexico??

Perhaps Florida avocados are being flown across deep waters to international destinations. I succumbed, buying two “organic fresh from Mexico” avocados because the price was right and an avocado’s skin is tough enough to keep out pesticides, plus, you don’t eat its skin.

I am thankful for country of origination labeling however, I am an advocate for local produce and fish. While living in Louisiana, we often purchased fresh catfish from the “Des Allemands Outlaw Katfish Company,” at Lac Des Allemands, Louisiana. It was a well worth a drive for fresh catfish from the waters of the bayou.

What are your thoughts and preferences for local produce? For fish? Do you have a local grocer of preference you would like to share?

A Look Back at Hurricane Katrina 8-29-2005

A Look Back at Hurricane Katrina 8-29-2005

Sterling Katrina Amulet by Mignon Faget marked on reverse 8-29-05

Sterling Katrina Amulet by Mignon Faget marked on reverse 8-29-05

“We have to evacuate.  There’s no room for CoCo in the car.”  The Saturday morning Aug. 27, 2005, cell phone call would be life altering.  Hurricane Katrina was heading to New Orleans.  St. Charles Parish issued a mandatory evacuation.

Katrina would hit with all her might early morning August 29, 2005.

“Get out or leave next of kin contact information.”  That Saturday, it was 11am in Orlando.  My husband was able to book a flight to New Orleans to prepare the house for Katrina and to take care of CoCo.  He tirelessly worked, putting hurricane panels on the house till 2am Sunday morning.  The neighborhood was deserted.  The house was dark.  Dog food packed.  Grocery store shelves were empty.  “I don’t have any bread.”  “You have a bread machine, bake a loaf of bread.”  He did.  Early Sunday morning, he and the dog left for a motel by the New Orleans airport, parking his car on a high floor of the airport’s parking garage, where Parish emergency vehicles were staged in case of rising waters.

Monday, August 29, 5a.m. CDT, he called.  The winds and rains are coming.  Katrina was arriving.  Non-stoppable Katrina was coming to town.  Barefoot, he took CoCo for a walk.  The electricity went out.  He couldn’t get back into his room.  Stuck in blinding rains with a partially blind and hearing impaired dog, he pleaded with motel owners to break open the door to his room because he needed his medications.  When they opened his door, his bed was full of water from a leak in the motel’s roof from Katrina’s rains.  They relocated him to a room on the bottom floor.  He forgot to pack food for himself.  He had a loaf of bread and a gallon of water.  It sustained him four days.  He was depressed, (though he wouldn’t admit it)  hungry, and survived through a state of adrenalin following Katrina’s devastation and destruction.

After Katrina passed, wading in waist high water, he walked a mile to his office to check on the building.  He wasn’t allowed back to our neighborhood and home.  He didn’t know about levee breaks, lootings, shootings, fires and desperation until I told him.  No electricity.  No services.  Darkness in a relatively dry home that he had to cut his way into after authorities allowed him entry.  Trees had fallen across the road, blocking entry to our home.

Hurricane Katrina 063Before daybreak, he and CoCo left for Lafayette to buy generators and gasoline cans.  He took CoCo in case authorities would not let him back into the neighborhood.  Road blocks were set up everywhere you turned.  Access was usually denied, as he had encountered when trying to get back to our home.

While at home in a dark, boarded up house, he decided to make a run for Orlando after the telephone land line went dead.  He had misplaced his wallet somewhere in the house.  I reminded him of a stash of cash and its location.  He and CoCo resolved to make it to Orlando, overnighting in a small Florida town.  “Call the highway patrol, find out what roads are open.”  Determined, he and CoCo made it to our Florida home, a safe place where he began the process to locate employees.  Thousands of others didn’t have the luxury of a safe, familiar place they could call home.  Evacuees were displaced far from their homes and sometimes, their families.

He had to purchase a new truck for the company so that critical shipments could be made at the Baton Rouge Airport.  The New Orleans Airport was closed.  We traveled with a U.S. government agency high-level letter of authorization so that we could get through check points set up along I-10.  It was a nerve-filled trip, making a wrong turn on a detour, witnessing first-hand the indescribable devastation along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  The wrong turn drive was humbling and tearful.

A subordinate’s home was washed away.  His refrigerator was found about five miles from his home with his children’s magnet photos in place.  The company owner’s home was flooded in four feet of water.  The owner walked his property with a gun, to kill snakes trying to get out of flood waters.  Everyone we knew was impacted by Katrina.  There was no high and dry place.  Katrina zeroed in along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Alabama and New Orleans.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affects children.  The woman who bought our home in December, following Katrina said, “My daughter has not slept in her bed since the hurricane.  I hope she will sleep by herself after we move.”  At the time, her daughter was a year old.  Katrina’s PTSD impacted thousands.                                                                                ©Barbara Moran and barbaramoranblog

Lake Ponchartrain Fish Camp swallowed by Katrina

Lake Ponchartrain Former Fish Camp swallowed by Katrina

Train Travel Adventures

Kale Chips Do Not Travel Well by Train

Visiting family spring breakers insisted on shopping to supplement and fortify a stash of snacks, almonds, pretzels, string cheese, peanut butter, snow peas, and cucumbers. House guests often buy more than they consume. The house was full of March Madness mayhem, recording games to watch after returning home from theme park marathons. Spring break brought family restful hours by a community pool. Heavy eyelids made their way downstairs for breakfast and trips back to the grocery store for more, donuts! Full from adventuresome days, family departed to return to not so warm temperatures of their hometown. After their departure, we readied for a brief train trip to Savannah, GA with Hilton Head Island as our final destination.

I placed a package of Kale Chips into the beige-trimmed navy canvas satchel that contained a writing journal, camera, iPad and other travel security items I felt necessary to bring along, but I forgot the binoculars. After boarding the Amtrak Silver Meteor train for Savannah, I threw the satchel into the overhead rack. The inexpensive Kale Chips turned into crumbs. I thought they would be a perfect snack while reading the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, but since Kale Chips were crumbs, I would need a spoon. I had packed two bags of a favorite comfort food, Cheez It crackers, (left behind by family spring breakers). One of the bags had turned into crumbs like the Kale Chips.

The train ride was relaxing until across the aisle, a frantic voice connected to a friend screamed into her phone, “The ADT alarm is going off at my house, the police are on their way. I’m tired of buying things for thieves to steal.” She got off the train before I heard if her friend went to her home to meet police.

We were 6 cars back from the train’s engines. I didn’t hear one whistle as we traveled over railroad crossings. I never heard the crumbling of Kale Chips or Cheeze It crackers either. A train stop in Jacksonville turned into a long delay when the crew made the decision to ditch one of the sleeper cars for safety reasons. People carrying pillows joined us in coach class when they had to be relocated from their roomy sleeper cars.

This is living large

Living Large

My husband, sitting by the window, was glued to his iPhone, watching every inch of terrain on a satellite map he downloaded. With the rocking back and forth of our train, I read and read and read, sometimes gasping at Dr. Davis’s statements meant to bring a laugh. I disrupted my husband’s map adventures more than once with “You’re not going to believe this…” statements as I read portions of the book’s pages to him.

We seldom miss a meal in the dining car when traveling by train. I ignored what I had read minutes ago when a warm sour dough dinner roll was set before me. Dining car meals bring adventure, one never knows who a dinner partner is going to be. We shared a table with a Connecticut artist traveling home from an extended family visit with her son and grandson. Her interesting clothing and jewelry gave me a clue that she was probably an artist. Roosters, she had been painting roosters, 68 of them so far. How many roosters have you seen walking around your neighborhood? Me, none but I do like roosters.

Serene Marsh Veiw

Serene Marsh View

We were going to Hilton Head by way of Savannah, taking a taxi from the Amtrak station to the Savannah Airport to pick up a rental car for the one hour ride. Our Amtrak scheduled arrival time of 7:15pm turned into 9:15pm, altered in part by the sleeper car’s ditching a few hours back. Type A personalities may not do well traveling by train. After arriving in Savannah, we took a taxi to the airport (no charge) to pick up a car.

Driving in the dark Georgia night, my husband begins to fiddle with his iPhone. He was searching for a map to our final destination while driving on the interstate! I’m a “Type A nervous nellie.” Minutes passed. He pulled over to the side of the road to figure out the map. As second-class navigator, I made an executive decision. It was time to consult a professional, Siri, who lives and breathes to get me out of nervous situations, especially when the situation relates to directions. I voiced my request like Star Trek’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise might command, “Get Directions to …” Siri’s audible commands navigated us to the resort at Hilton Head where we spent several days relaxing and enjoying South Carolina’s coast.

We went to a favorite spot for dinner. The Sunset Grill, a fine dining waterfront restaurant rests on top of a self-service laundromat in an RV park. Floor to ceiling windows on three sides offer breathtaking views. We appreciated the view of a vibrant sunset, unlike the time we had dinner during a heavy fog. Facing the Intracoastal Waterway at the Hilton Head Harbor Marina, one never knows what you may see in the calm waters. We’ve never been disappointed.

Fast forward to the end of August. We are ready for another visit of family. Will they make a trip to the grocery store, shopping to supply snack cravings? I’ll encourage them to buy some Kale Chips and Cheeze It crackers, secretly hoping for leftovers. (I won’t be saying a word to the author of Wheat Belly.)

Welcome to Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort

Welcome to Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort

Look for Shadow when you visit

Look for Shadow when you visit

Mileage from Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort
Mileage from Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort

It’s from Thailand not the Philippines

On a road trip, we decided to overnight in Savannah, GA, a favorite spot.

I had told my husband that our daughter-in-law really liked our frog that I had bought in Savannah years ago and I would like to find one for her.  After dinner at the Sapphire Grill, we were on a mission to find a frog like the one that sits by our back door, guarding us from intruders like spiders, “Show me the Money” lizards and other like-minded creatures such as geckos.

Frog

Frog

Staying at a familiar place, I chose to talk to the locals while my husband went up to our room.  When I arrived, I heard, “Yes, frog.  Oh, it is from Thailand.  It is blonde wood?”  We had walked the streets of this river town searching for the frog, having solicited tips from locals about where we could find this fat frog carved in wood.  Years ago, I paid $29.00 for my frog, imported from the Philippines at some Savannah shop but I couldn’t remember the name of the shop.

At the Sapphire Grill, we sat next to a young couple celebrating an anniversary.  We exchanged conversation.  They lived on an island near Savannah.  Their children visit our locale for sports competitions.  I gave them a business card for our charity.  They didn’t know anything about frogs from the Philippines.  I had expected to have my favorite Chilean Sea Bass, a signature dish at the restaurant.  They don’t offer it anymore since Sea Bass has become over-fished.  How things have changed.  A new addition next door to the restaurant is a Paula Deen retail shop.  Had I known what was coming for Paula, I would have bought a few things in the shop.

The next morning, we checked out of our hotel to continue to search for the frog.  My husband had honed directions to a retail place that had a frog from Thailand that they stopped carrying because it was too expensive.  We parked.  We walked.  The shop was fantastic, featuring all sorts of high quality imports from around the world.  He asks about the frog.  The sales clerk says, “You were the one who called about the bronze frogs?”  We looked at each other.  Thailand?  Bronze frogs, not blonde wood frogs?

Leaving Savannah that morning sans frog, we chuckled about blonde wood.

Stay tuned for more Savannah escapades.

Rain

Giant Live Oak trees shade the asphalt roadways on many New Orleans streets.  Rails lay in the neutral ground where the St. Charles Avenue Street Car rolls.  When you stick a toe on a rail, you can feel a vibration if a Street Car is approaching.  You feel the power in the rails.  Tourists take steps off the Street Car close to St. Charles and State Street where St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church sits.  On Sunday mornings, tourists walk onto the slate floor narthex and are greeted by gentlemen in seersucker suits who welcome them to one of God’s Houses on The Avenue.  Sundays at St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church are dress up days, to honor and worship God.

The senior Pastor is a South Carolina native.  His grand Southern accent resonates off the faux painted walls of the church.

The church basement flooded during Hurricane Katrina.  The church sat empty from the end of August till late November 2005.  The people had evacuated but God was there in the empty city.

I think about my first January in the Greater New Orleans area.  One week, the sky poured heavy rain for five straight days.  I sat in my office, keeping in touch with friends and family through email.  I didn’t go out of the house during those heavy rains.

I’ve hesitated going outside for the past two days.  Heavy rains have hammered us.  Clouds gather together, ready to burp out swift winds and rain drops the size of quarters.  I have flashbacks to Louisiana rains.   “Duckie” moved from Louisiana with us, but I have forgotten her for the past two days.  She’s always ready for the rains, in her raincoat and hat.  Me, not so much.

Duckie, from Juneau, Alaska knows about heavy rains

Duckie, from Juneau, Alaska knows about heavy rains