Tuesday, December 27, 2016

I hope everybody had a great Christmas, we certainly did!
We were graciously invited by James' Boss-of-the-year, Ronnie
(last year, Brad, his at-the-time-boss invited us too!) to have
Christmas brunch/dinner with the family at his place. 

Ronnie & Anita Perrin's place in Ponchatoula
That's Southern Hospitality for you! Or maybe we were just a 'charity-case', as in, "those poor people, having to celebrate the holidays without their family, and in an RV, of all places!"

We took some pics with James' cell, since I didn't want to be in every one's faces with a big camera, and guess what, they all came out blurry! 
What the %$@&! How do other people always seem to make such great pics on these smart-things and I can't do it for the life of me ...?
So, sorry, terrible pics!

We had a wonderful meal, prime-rib with delicious side dishes, and some great deserts (Mississippi Mud pie!) afterward.
It's such a treat to be with a 'real' family in a 'real' house!

Second Christmas day, we spent at home, where James worked on a small 'honey-do'-list and tried to get rid of an ant invasion of lately. I cleaned up after him and took the opportunity to do some 'deep cleaning' behind and around various appliances. Wow, things get pretty nasty (greasy) around the stove (if you look real careful), and that dishwasher (yuk)!

At the end of the day we worked a little bit on our golf-swing, at our newly set-up, personal 'driving-range', right next to the RV!
We'd gotten some foam golf balls, a ball-retrieving bag and a golf-mat, and we're just hitting out over the grounds. 

Since we're the only ones here at the moment we have more than enough room to do so, and those foam-balls aren't going very far to begin with.
By the way, Christmas was a 74 degree affair here this year! Overcast, at least, but jeez, it hardly felt like Christmas ...

Like I said, there's nobody here at the moment, but the coming weekend is fully booked once again! 
The Old-Year festivities are always quite a happening over here, there's going to be a band, as usual, and at midnight they'll start a huge bonfire and Nita and Roy (the owners) will pop champagne for everyone!

Over the last couple of weeks, the guys have been busy working on taking down some old and/or dead trees, and have build a huge bonfire pile ...

It's ready to go!

And although I fought a hard fight, I finally succumbed to the cold that James was so kind to bring home, and I've spent a whole week in the RV, feeling to much 'out of sorts' to do much of anything. I wasn't real sick, but not fit either.

Hard to believe that despite all this, I still got a cold ...
It's been well over a week now and I still have a persistent sore throat that I can't seem to shake. It gives me (literary) fits, as in 'coughing' fits and as a result I don't sleep very well. Oh well ... it just has to take it's turn I'm afraid, and slowly fizzle out.

Because of this I've not been walking to much, but I try to 'air out' a little each day and get some fresh air in my lungs so I've managed to snap a few pics of the grounds.

It still looks a little more like Fall over here, probably due to the high temperatures ...
But I did find some berries, some pretty red mushrooms and even a stunning red Camellia:

Looks sort of christmas-sy, no?
I made some more cookies too. These little beauties are called Chocolate Crackles:

As I mentioned on Facebook: 'Be careful, because these cookies can make or break your Christmas spirit.
The dough is so ^%$#@! sticky, it might drive you nuts! But they are sooooo melt-in-your-mouth-chocolaty good, it makes you almost forget about that &@#%$! dough ...!'

Being 'RV-bound' also is a good opportunity to start a new puzzle. A Christmas puzzle, as you can see. These Wysocky puzzles are so much fun to do!

I'm still working on it though, after a week, and haven't made much progress. This cold is muddling my brain to the point that I have a hard time concentrating for very long! 



Saturday, December 17, 2016

One of the very cold mornings brought this nice sunrise ...

The weather is a little crazy at the moment. One morning I woke up to an almost freezing 35F (2C), a couple days later to 68F (19C), and it looks like this coming week it's going to repeat that!
I shouldn't complain though, since the whole north of the country, from coast to coast, is suffering freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall. Winter has arrived!

Time to get cozy and cuddle up inside, where 'it's starting to look a lot like Christmas'.

After 3 years of  wishing for one, I finally broke down and bought a larger Christmas Tree. (Breaking my rule of  'if it ain't broken, don't replace it' ...)

It's about twice the size of our previous one!

Our old tree didn't go to waist though, I put it outside in between our patio loungers. Doesn't it look cute?

James is starting to feel a lot better and, after 3 weeks, he even started to play some golf again this week. He's making short swings and keeps his legs together, so he can't over-turn or over-swing.
Works fine!

Putting is of course no problem ... unless you miss ...!

I love the holiday season for many reasons, but one of the best is for all the cooking and baking!
Yes, December is cookie-baking-month! Well, technically I started already in November at Thanksgiving with a Pumpkin Cheesecake, and last week I made a Pumpkin Spice Bread/Cake.

I added some walnuts too. Delicious!

And of course there have to be Gingerbread men. I found this year's recipe on a websiteas usual, and it was even better than last year's! It called for almost double the spices, which gave them a delicious spicy 'punch'. Definitely a winner!

I even managed to get the frosting on without it melting away or dripping off!
Talking about food, I thought these cold days could do with some dutch comfort food, so after making Pea-soup at 'Sinterklaas' and 'Hutspot' in the week after, I made 'Stampot Boerenkool' this week!

It's basically mashed potatoes with Kale (or in case of the hutspot, carrots and onions), served with smoked sausage (rookworst). 
The closest to the dutch sausage I can get in the States, is Polish (smoked) Kielbasa. Almost just as good! 
And of course you have to have a 'kuiltje' (small hole) with gravy (in which I threw some bacon bits).

To keep somewhat in shape while eating all this deliciousness, I stick to my walking around the campground, and have even upped it from once to twice a day!

Not hard to do at all, when you can do your walking in such beautiful surroundings!

I'll end with a funny shot of one of the turtles that call this lake home, poking his head above the water. If you look closely at the lake, you see them just about everywhere. There must be hundreds of them in there! (Mmm, ... turtle-soup anyone?)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

On the Monday after Thanksgiving, I do my traditional 'changing of the wreaths' ritual ....

Although it's in conflict with my Dutch upbringing, I've gotten into the habit of starting to decorate for Christmas in the week after Thanksgiving, just like if I was a true American.
In Holland, we (used to) hold of doing this until after 'Sinterklaas'-evening, on the 5th of December, just to give this tradition the time and attention it deserves. 
But I'm over here, and nobody knows, although I might have given it away on Facebook ... oh well ...

On Friday we went to see the Christmas Parade in Hammond. 

The town was packed, and we were very lucky to find two vacant chairs and a table under the front awning of the local coffee shop (PJ's), where we got some rather good hot chocolate and nice truffles.

The parade passed right in front of us and when it started raining about halfway through we were even more happy to be where we were ... under the awning!

There were 56 entrees, varying from the usual floats to classic cars and motorcycles, to marching bands and dancing girls.

There were silly bicycle cops with reindeer antlers, and we even scored some Christmas stockings .....


Anyways ... we're now totally in the 'holiday Spirit', how 'bout you?

The weather has turned a lot cooler and we're getting a lot of rain lately. We needed it, but I keep a wary eye on that rising river ... please ... not again!
The cooler temperatures have at least inspired me to cook some 'stick-to-your-ribs', typical dutch, winter-comfort food:


Like 'hutspot' and the only 'real' pea soup, which of course is dutch pea soup! Yumm!

And although we don't quite celebrate Sinterklaas-evening anymore (but I might change that next year again), I still bake the traditional speculaas we eat around this time of the year.

It's soooo good!

Outside, nature still tries to hang on to Fall, but it's on it's last legs. A lot of trees lost most of their leaves by now, more due to drought followed by this week's rain and wind than to the cold I must say, and Fall colors have not been very good this year.

Liquid Amber's never disappoint though, and the rain has sprouted a lot of (unidentified) mushrooms everywhere ...


And guess who's baaaaaack?

Yep, he's still hanging around, and I'm sort of getting used to him. A little. Which might be a mistake ...
But he looked almost cute just floating around in the lake. I think he was sleeping actually, his eyes were closed. Maybe he tried to lure me closer? Creeps!

I still rather see 'my' gorgeous Heron, fishing from his favorite perch in the Bayou, right behind the RV.
I photograph him often, he's so striking.


He's very skittish, so it always takes me forever to get a few good shots, but this time he was more focused on the fishing than on me, and I actually saw him catching a fish! So cool!


And with that I'm calling it quits for today. Have a great week (or so) and ... I'll be baaaaack!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A belated Happy Thanksgiving to y'all! 

I'd say it's probably my favorite Holiday, I just love this time of the year with it's cooler temperatures,  it's Fall colors, all the decorations and, of course, the food!
As usual, we had more than enough of the latter! Like last year, the owners of the campground, Roy and Nita, took care of deep-frying twelve (!) Turkeys and the rest of us brought the side-dishes, potluck style.

One thing was obvious, there were a lot less people than last year! The recent floods have hit people hard, some lost their houses, some lost their RV's, some had to sell their RV's and some have decided to move to a different campground (one that doesn't flood).

Nevertheless, a good time was had by all. The weather was great, and there was enough food for firsts, seconds and left-overs!
We tried not to overeat and somewhat succeeded ...

(that jolly lady on the right is Nita, she broke her ankle two weeks ago, when she stepped off the bottom step of her RV steps ... go figure!)

As is 'our' tradition, we watched the Macy's Parade and the Ukanuba Dog Show on the tube and had a nice relaxing day ..

And than comes the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and the start of the crazy Christmas (shopping) season!
All the fall decorations immediately disappear and right away the Christmas lights and trees are popping up everywhere.

So, at noon on Saturday, while in this kind of Holiday spirit, Hidden Oaks had an important visitor ...


♪ You better watch out, you better not cry ♫ ... yup, the 'Big Guy' arrived 'in town'!


The children got their first presents. Knowing how much is spent on presents by the average household each year, it will most likely not be their last!

To work off some of the food we ate, we decided to visit the gardens of the LSU Agricultural Research Station here in Hammond for an afternoon stroll.
It is literary 'around the corner' from us, less than 5 minutes away, and although we'd wanted to go there since last year, we never made it.

This is not the most interesting time to visit of course. 
There's not much growing or flowering anymore, but the grounds are very pleasant to stroll through in any season. A few trees still showed some fall colors and the first of the early Camellias were starting to bloom ...


This is actually a Hollyhock, but it's not like anyone's paying attention ...

Look at the size of these Camellias! They grow like weeds down here!               

And these heavy bearing citrus trees are Satsuma Mandarins ...

They are absolutely delicious, very sweet, incredibly juicy, seedless and easy-peeling, and everybody's favorite here in the south!

Flanking the entrance to the gardens are two beautiful, 100-year-old, humongous, Live Oak trees.
Both are 'members' of the Louisiana Live Oak Society. To obtain membership one must have a girth of 8 feet or more and one must be  ... an oak!
The Live Oak Society is a registry of over 7,500 notable live oak trees found throughout the South. The LSU Research Station has seven registered live oaks with seven more in-waiting of which 5 are 'centenarians' (more than 100 years old).
The southerners do love their Oaks, and rightfully so, they're just amazing!

James is doing a lot better by the way, at least he can walk upright again, although he still needs to move slow and take some painkillers, especially towards the end of the day, when he gets tired.
He's trying to keep himself busy, organizing paperwork (taxes!), trying to restore my crashed and infected computer (%$#@!), doing some small 'honey-do-list projects and watching Hallmark-Holiday movies ... (yeah, that's pretty sad)

In between the cooking and baking, I'm trying to finally finish knitting some socks, whom I started about a year ago, and do a little spinning. 
On Sunday, after the walk, we watched the 'girls' play (LPGA) some amazing golf. 

While I was doing some spinning and thinking about what a lousy golfer I am in comparison, I had a thought ... they might play a lot better than I do ... but can they spin?!
Made me feel a lot better!

We spent the rest of the weekend eating all left-overs, together with the overnight-salad I made, and some mashed potatoes (southerners don't eat this, they have 'dirty-rice' instead). 
It's Merlins favorite time of the year .. Turkey! Yum! (just kiddin', he didn't get that whole leg)

I'd also baked a pumpkin-cheese cake and made some deviled eggs of course (no Holiday can be without them, according to James).
I'm so stuffed, I swear, I'll never eat again ... yeah, I know ... famous last words!

So, to 'keep my girly figure', I'm doing some extra rowing (while watching those Hallmark movies): 

(Especially since I see a lot of Christmas cookies etc. looming in the near future!)

♪ Row, row, row your boat ...