Monday, March 20, 2017

This is me at the tee-box of the 8th hole of 'our' Municipal golf course. 

This part of the course is rather flat and the fairways are the longest here. This is actually the only par 5 of the course.
Finally the course is starting to dry up a little and the weather is just perfect (around 68F), so we've been out here several times already!

1st hole fairway

This guy keeps following me around ....
Arguably the best part of this course is (apart from the only $40/month membership), that it's only a 7 minute walk away! Yeah!
They've agreed to store my bag in the office, so I just take a short walk through the neighborhood behind the campground, and golf a couple of holes whenever I feel like it!
Funny enough, it's the first time I play by myself, without James, since we always had just the one car and no way for me to get to any course. It's quite liberating, I have to say, and I seem to play better? ( I can also cheat of-course ...)

Eh, let's see, what else did we do?
We visited the Hodges Gardens State Park, just 16 miles up the road from us. 

Beautifully designed as a private garden by Mr Hodges in 1940, opened to the public in 1959 and since 2007 a State Park, it's threatened to be closed this summer due to insufficient funds to maintain it. What a shame, it's so beautiful!

The fountain at Willow Point

The Park includes 925 acres referred to as Hodges Gardens, and features 60 acres of formal gardens.
It is the largest horticultural park and recreation area in the United States and offers walking trails, foot bridges, formal gardens, an arboretum, the Azalea Overlook, waterfalls, and a visitor center.  
James walking up to the Azalea Overlook
We just caught the butt end of the azalea and camellia flowering season:

St Francis of Assisi overlooks the Magnolia garden:

I think camellias are some of the most perfect flowers around ...

We walked most of the formal gardens. Unfortunately, due to maintenance, there was no water in most of the ponds and the waterfalls weren't running but we still loved walking up and down the meandering paths and over the numerous little stone bridges ...


This is the Observation tower, not accessible to the public, but rather striking looking in a sort of '70's-futuristic-style design.

This flowering tree/bush had us puzzled, in fact, I still don't know what it is?

The following one showed up in my little plants and animal book though. It's a Fringe Tree.

Very unusual and very pretty!

We drove the 'loop' around the lake, and stopped to hike the short 0.5 mile Wild Azalea Trail.

Wild Azalea
And on the other side of the lake I found some Louisiana Irises starting to bloom:

After doing the loop you'll end up at the entrance of the park once again, which now becomes your exit off course ... duhhh

There's a nice overlook where, on a clear day, you'll be able to see Texas in the distance ..

Well, I think that's about 'all she wrote' for this time.
James is working 'hard' at the store, but finds enough time to get some golf in whenever he has an hour or so to spare, so he's a happy camper.
And I'm starting to plan our trip north for when we'll leave here in May. Fun!

I'm still using my Instant Pot whenever I can and so far everything has come out absolutely delicious!
Here's a picture of a meal NOT made in 'the Pot', but just as good. Grilled tilapia and roasted asparagus with sprinkled Parmesan.

As you can see, everybody has his own place at the table in the Hess household. 
And yes, I know, some people think this is disgusting, having a cat on the table ....

Saturday, March 11, 2017

And here we are! All set up and settled in, safe and sound, at Shady Lake RV Park in Leesville, LA.
Our travels didn't go without some little 'drama' this time tough!

It already started to go 'south' before we even went on the road ...
Breaking up went very smoothly and we were hooked up and ready to leave right on time at 8.45am. 
We'd had some vague concerns about the grass being wet and the soil still  rather soft (muddy) from the rains we'd had but we thought it actually had dried out pretty much over the last week.
Nothing to worry about ... well ... wrong! 

We'd pulled only a couple of feet forward when the back wheels started spinning, and after trying to rock back and forth a little without any result, it became clear that we were stuck!

It took some calling and waiting around but in the end Robot, the guy who previously had moved us to another site, was able to pull us out with the park's tractor! 
For some reason, I didn't make a single picture of this, but obviously ... he got us out! Phew!

OK. On the road, we went!
But ... we didn't make it off the campground yet, before I heard James say under his breath, ".. oh .. oh .. not good ...". Somehow I never like it when he says that ...
It turned out that the breaks of the RV weren't 'engaging' ... "eeks, WHAT?! ... we have no breaks?!"  Well, no panic (yeah, yeah, I've heard that before), the truck's brakes are fine and Louisiana is as flat as a pancake so we're going to be OK!
Man, oh, man ... nice start of the day, eh?

This was our itinerary for the day,  242 miles, which, for us, is about 4 hours. If you include a coffee, lunch or fuel break, probably closer to 5.
We left (after our little hold-up) at 9.30, only 30 minutes behind schedule, and expected to be there around 1 or 2 pm.
That was, if nothing else would happen ...

And so, since all things happen in threes, something else did ..
Going 60 miles/hr on the freeway, just before Baton Rouge, we had a tire blow out!
Fortunately, it was the truck's, and fortunately it was a back tire and, triple fortunately, the inside one of the dually's!

How's that for a hole!

According to James he barely felt it (although the bang was LOUD), and he was able to quickly stir us off the highway and onto the (ample) shoulder.
It took him an hour to change it out while I holed up in the RV to keep Merlin company. 
(Man, it's so scary to have traffic whizzing past you at about a few inches distance! The whole RV was shuddering, especially when a truck would pass.)
Again, I forgot to make pictures! I guess I was too stressed, I never even thought of it ...

I so admire James for what he is able to do in these scary situations. He's always keeping his calm and always seems to be able to solve the problem and get us out of many a 'pickle'.
Kudos to you Honey! You're amazing!

The lake between the road and the campground

We took a break by the side of the road and had some coffee, and I'd made some sandwiches while waiting, so we than managed to cruise non-stop to our destination, fortunately without any more nasty surprises!
We were welcomed by Pat and Phil, the owners, and after check-in we set up camp in a pretty spot under the pines that has a nice view of the lake.


Phew! Quite the adventure, don't you think? But, like they say, ... all's well that ends well! 
We're OK, which is the most important of course, new tires have been ordered and the brakes will be repaired before we go on the road again.

On Sunday we explored town, found the place where James will be working (very conveniently next to Walmart and Lowes) and, most important, checked out the Municipal Golf Course, right next door of the campground!

They had some heavy rains lately and the course is very (did I say VERY) wet, but we got a round in, and hopefully it will start to dry out a little in the coming week.

I also found a nice area to take some walks, right behind the campground.

There are some beautiful big houses along the road and in the beautiful gardens lots of Azaleas and Dogwood trees are flowering 

Also a lot of Wisteria! 

And, if you look high up in the trees, Yellow Jessamine and orange Cross Vine ...



Also, lots of birds here! When the sun comes out for a little bit, they are singing like there's no tomorrow! 
It definitely looks like spring here also, although I think they're a little later than Hammond, maybe because we're more north here?


This Mockingbird just kept on singing. I read somewhere they can have a repertoire of over 200 different songs! Amazing! 

OK, that's it for now. More pics next time when it's hopefully a little bit more sunny and we've done some more exploring ...

Friday, March 3, 2017

The days are getting longer, temperatures are high, birds are singing and If you look closely, most trees are starting to look a little green at the moment ...

Every day I find more buds budding ...

And new flowers are popping up everywhere ...

                                                      Loblolly Bay

Too bad we won't be here when the Blackberries are ripe because whole fields of them are flowering!

Birds are busy claiming their territories, they're singing their little hearts out, especially in the morning.
The mornings are still crisp and cool though and this Cardinal looked like he was cold, as he sat all fluffed up in the Liquidambar tree in front of my window. 

As was this little Carolina Wren, looking like a powder ball ...

As it warms up during the day a few butterflies are starting to appear ...

I think this is a Juvenal's Duskywing up above, and the one below a Common Buckeye ...

Among the permanent residents here are a bunch of Peacocks, usually split up in a few separate 'musters' (groups), like this one that's all made up of young males:

They're starting to get their 'big-boy' feathers, and with Spring arriving and hormones flaring, they start to parade around, puff up and charge at each other to show off ...

But no one is a match for 'the BIG Boss' ...


He's the undefeated leader of the pack and regularly 'struts his stuff' to let everybody know who's in charge ...

He's gorgeous ... and he knows it!

I've been experimenting some more with my Instant Pot and thought I try my hand at making yogurt!
I never thought I'd ever make my own yogurt and technically it was of course the Pot who did most of the 'making', but look at this ... it worked!

All you have to do is throw a gallon of milk in the pot, push the 'yogurt' button and let it do its thing until it beeps. 
By than, the milk will be heated to 180 degrees, than you turn the pot off and let the milk cool to 115 degrees, after which you add your starter (1/4 cup of plain yogurt with live cultures) and start the pot up again. 
It will now take 8 hours to incubate after which you cool it overnight in the fridge for 8 to 10 hours.

And voila, you just made yogurt! It kinda feels like when Tom Hanks made fire in Castaway and bellowed: ...I !.. made fire! ...
I ... made yogurt ...!
I drained some of it for another hour to get the much thicker Greek-style yogurt. Delicious!

I also baked this (Wal)Nutty Shortbread that I cut into bars. 
Very simple, but because of the roasted nutty-ness, so very, very good!

James is still working hard and making good money, which helps to finally get caught up again with our finances. 
After the truck problems and James surgery we were running on 'fumes' for a while...!

We're golfing every weekend and with the weather warming up James needed to repair his golf sandals ...

The sole came undone so he needed to glue and clamp everything together ...

Could be the newest, hottest trend in golf foot-wear!

And last but not least, we finally got word from James boss Ronnie, that the new Petsense store in Leesville is a go, and we need to move there this weekend so he can start on Monday.
Yeah! I'm so happy! I've suffered from a bad case of hitch-itch for a couple of months now, and I'm so ready to see something new!
Bring it on!

We're leaving around 9am tomorrow morning and hopefully will be arriving in Leesville around 2pm in the afternoon.
It's a little 'backtracking' since Leesville is about 240 miles north-west of us. In fact, we drove by it when we came down to New Orleans two years ago!
We already picked out a campground and, most important, a golf course, and guess what .... they're next to each other!
Works for us!

See you in Leesville!