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May 18 thru June 5, 2018 Last morning in the Hot springs KOA, so made my way to the restaurant on site where the Bennett family cooks breakfast on weekends. Enjoyed half my English muffin with egg and sausage, with a small glass of OJ; packed other half to go. Laughed when I was joined again by the duck squad.

img_20180518_0752311398858528.jpgStarted packing up camp and reorganizing, again. I put things in places strategically, but when needed, they’re not within reach. Ha! I’m hopeful this go-round is an improvement. FYI Camping on top of gravel isn’t the greatest, but it’s been interesting.

Headed to the office about noon to say goodbye to the great staff and check out the little garden area one more time. I love whimsical.

img_1689719020263.jpgStopped at the local flea market when I spotted their truck, which reminded me of the Pixar movie, “Cars” of course. Looked through their goodies and picked a cute bracelet with colorful, changeable pieces for Levi.

img_20180519_0907322007931439.jpgNot long after arriving at Aunt Janis’ home, we headed to Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino on the Red River in downtown Shreveport to meet her friends. She introduced me to everyone and they all had the same thing to say about how much I look like a younger version of Janis. I’ve always been told we look just alike. Even FB automatically tags me in photos of her. Funny! Lots of dancing and drinking into the night.

The bright and early morning came far too soon! Woke up to a quick coffee and then off we went, to volunteer with the Do Gooder Project, coordinated through Simple Church, to assist with residential tornado damage cleanup. I had no idea how extensive the damage was, or that the homes were still occupied; no insurance meant no alternative.

img_20180519_0908072111981532.jpgIt was heart-warming to see so many volunteers working together, with their hands, tools and heavy equipment, to help the families. Incredibly, the massive, old tree was removed from both houses within hours, with limbs, brush and debris stacked at the street. It was tough work, but even Leo Savage, who is running for mayor, got his sweat on.

img_20180520_02492621139417.jpgWe headed to the house for a shower and down time before Nicky’s Mexican restaurant for live music, drinks and dancing, followed by a trip back to Sam’s Town for more of the same. Tons of kick-off-my-shoes dancing, around great people and incredible bands. A friend of Janis’ shared a pass (casino related) to what we thought was the presidential suite. Even if it wasn’t, it was nice! Janis and I had plenty of room in the king size bed that felt like a cloud.

Up early, too early, to head back to the house for clean up. Although I didn’t really want to go, we made it to the Simple Church service (lots of donuts and drinks for everyone) at the old Civic Center in Shreveport; I grabbed coffee. I think it was Aunt Janis who told me this is the same location where I played the role of Madam Butterfly’s son, Trouble (if the name fits…) at about age 7. After service (lots of Hank Williams’ music for Family Tradition topic), we headed to Copeland’s for lunch with Janis’ girls. Enjoyed a salad, listening to various conversations and got crawfish étouffée to go.img_20180520_1209531096143028.jpg

With all the wonderful, somewhat frantic, running around, it was super nice to get back to Janis’ and relax. I was exhausted!

The TV fanatic of the house, Bart, kept us entertained. Seriously, I’ve never seen a dog glued to the TV. Too funny!

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Beautiful view in Aunt Janis’ backyard; perfect to enjoy coffee. Took a long walk in the neighborhood with her and the boys this morning. Bart got to ‘ride’ back in a front pack on Janis, like a fuzzy diva. Too funny!img_1692139232565.jpg

Washed Janis’ cute little car for more exercise, until the clouds broke and the heat poured in. Headed over to Dad and Mardell’s about 3p, just a few minutes away. So happy to see them. Dad’s eyesight is much better after surgeries. All he needs now are reading glasses, like me. Forgot to mention I sat on mine last night and broke the frames. Argh!

We went to dinner at Hartz Chicken Buffet, where I had veggies, fried fish, fried okra, cole slaw, baked chicken (fell off bone and super moist) and banana pudding with lemonade. Stuffed myself, but so delicious.

Their tomato plants are doing fantastic!img_20180521_1911111138722257.jpg Here’s a picture of what they did for a drainage issue area. It looks better than in the photo.img_20180521_191006532489426.jpg

Missing Cody badly today. He had stye removal surgery and I wasn’t there for him, but know he’s in wonderful hands. Thank you Mom. XOXO

img_20180522_1353082140930953.jpgWoke up later than usual at 8:30. Dad’s the super early-bird. Mardell had cooked a nice breakfast and waited for me to sit and enjoy. So sweet! They had already been doing yard work. Enjoyed good visit time with Mardell, while Dad went to an appointment, then we all headed out for a day trip to check out Lake Claiborne State Park in Homer, LA.

On the way, rain poured and the temp dropped, cutting the humidity considerably. It’s really not too hot yet, but every little bit of coolness helps. The park is beautiful and I definitely recommend a visit. It’s clean, has gorgeous tree canopies, walking trails, boat rentals, a sandy beach with huge swimming area, several covered boat slips and I read from the website it’s stocked with all kinds of good fish.

We drove to the cabins that looked roomy on the inside, with porch grills and outdoor fire pit seating. Mardell and I walked through the woods to the clear water’s edge. Beautiful!

The building marked Nature Center didn’t have anything to look at, but is a good group location. We caught a glimpse of deer while driving out. I missed the photo opp with the momma but caught the babe. Enjoyed the day with both of them very much. Thank you!img_1729

Beautiful morning, quickly heating up to mid-90s, with reports of storms heading our way. Dad was working in the yard and Mardell tending to the dogs when I headed out just after 9a to Aunt Janis’, about 10 minutes down the road. It’s wonderful they’re so close I can pop back and forth!

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Janis and I went to the home of her friend, Terry, in Shreveport. The backyard had pretty landscaping around the pool. While I swam, Janis floated around scrubbing the pool sides; couldn’t get her to just enjoy. The water felt wonderful. Unfortunately, the clouds and rumbling moved in, so it was short-lived.

We enjoyed a long visit and coffee with Terry’s mother next door, before driving back to the house to get cleaned up. We joined Terry for dinner at Trejos Mexican Restaurant in Benton. The chicken tacos were good and margarita was delicious. Oh, I forgot to mention I see crawfish advertised everywhere. Love it! Here, they had my favorite topper in almost every dish. Jalapeños rock!resized_20180523_205745_44182034093698.jpeg

Back to the house and we both got comfy. Here’s a pic wearing broken glasses. Called Walmart and they have $9 frames. Yea!

Up at 6a to feed and take Janis’ little poopers, Pepper and Bart, for a walk. I’m fur-baby sitting while Aunt Janis is with friends in Orange Beach, AL. Hope she has a blast!

The boys’ personalities are so entertaining. Pepper is a happy-go-lucky, perky ear pup who keeps Bart on his pads and enjoys eating poo (yuck). He’s very affectionate and loves to lick. Bart, the hard-headed, previously mentioned professional TV enthusiast growls, barks and whines at onscreen food, animals and people. He wants to tear off my bear’s limbs and rip out his stuffing, so Bear stays out of Bart’s reach. Burrs are magnetically attracted to Bart’s fluff during every single outdoor adventure.

After java, off to meet Terry at his house in Shreveport. He’s taking me to the R. W. Norton Art Gallery. I stopped on the way when I saw gas for $2.59 and filled up. I can’t believe it’s shot up so fast over the past week! Most places are $2.71 and higher. Not really what I want to see when starting road trek.

At Terry’s, I had another cup of coffee by his pool. He’s nice, but I’m definitely not interested in being anything more to him than Aunt Janis’ niece. She had something going with him for a while. Although she says she’s fine with just being friends, I think she really wanted more. The more time I’ve spent around him, I’m glad it didn’t work out. She deserves much better.

As we pulled up to Norton, I immediately noticed the incredible old oaks and pines surrounding the area. I’ve heard and read about the gallery, which is free, but my senses were completely overwhelmed in the gorgeous gardens.

There are many life-size bronze statues with incredible detail. The most captivating for me was “Destiny of the Red Man”. From what I could tell, the statue told the story; tragedy, leadership and respect, family, sacrifice, perseverance, birth, death, famine and love.

I could have stayed in the gardens for hours, or days, with the vibrant colors and smells, benches placed strategically for views, wildlife (ducks, turtles, Koi fish, birds and bees), ponds and flowing creeks. There are so many varieties of trees, flowers, ground cover and cacti.

Although the museum is rather small, there’s a massive collection of outstanding artwork, tapestries, bronze and glass. Here’s the main page link for more information: The R. W. Norton Art Gallery. There’s a dedicated children’s section with bronze, life-size characters (e.g. Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, Pig with Charlotte’s message), a reading area and a large glass view of outside active beehives.

Next stop was The Oyster Bar & Grill. The service seemed extra slow, but it always does when I’m super hungry. I got a side salad, cup of gumbo and rice, and a small margarita. Landed at Terry’s for a quick swim, then I was back on the road in my truck to the sweet fur-babies in Benton.

img_20180526_100030508153996.jpgWith Janis out of town, it was my green light to have some fun with the back patio of the little rental she’d already transformed inside to be a cozy home. She wanted the back patio to be enjoyable for her and the dogs, for them to be leash-free, without worry of venturing under the house or farther. Because dirt from under the house washed over the patio during heavy rain, that also was another issue.

To block dog access under the stairs and behind shelves, I used chicken wire and a staple gun. To prevent the little cuties from pushing the fence bottom, extra logs, wood and pavers were placed behind and in front of the wire.

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Cleaned out everything and found this beautiful black widow. Unfortunately for her, she and her babes met their demise. Put in boards to prevent or detour mud-flow, installed 2-15′ rolls of picket fencing to close patio sides, filled with mulch and extra pavers on hand. Refreshed paint on patio steps and forgot to unlock front door. The owners’ son, Ty, brought over keys, but didn’t have one for the bolt. Decided this was sign to call it a stopping point.

On Sunday, I enjoyed a wonderful evening with Dad and Mardell. Dad, the Grill Master, cooked steak and Mardell made a green salad, rolls, and baked potatoes. Delicious!

Her peanut butter chocolate cake made me seriously question, steak or cake first? Haha! Quickly resolved with some of all; leftovers went with me. Her flowers are gorgeous!

Memorial Day – Thank you to all who have served and sacrificed for Family and Our Country.

Picked up a roll of burlap for shelf tops, sprayed WD-40 in and around holes from wood bees invading the shelves, moved furniture back and found a beachy outdoor rug to add pop.

img_20180528_204027278855593.jpgAccepted Terry’s invitation for a swim and dinner. Not long after I arrived, the sun went down and pool lights came on. Of course, the mosquitoes started chowing down on me. Terry shared his dinner and attempted to create a mosquito free-zone throne, but it didn’t work and I was tired. Back to the house with the fur-babes.

img_20180530_172736532508606.jpgTuesday, Janis and I went shopping and had a good time. She bought three Super Yards to expand her poopers’ more grass space and a weed-eater. I was happy she was happy!

Late afternoon, I met Auntie M and David Jones at Walk-Ons Bistreaux & Bar in Shreveport. The food and service were incredible and it’s awesome to be in home state where menus include alligator, crawfish and jalapeños. My taste buds are dancing!

Staying with Auntie M; lots of hugs, TV time and long, wonderful chats. The next night, the last hanging out with Aunt Janis, was started with several of her ‘girls’ at Cork & Barrel for a tasty dinner, margaritas and live music by the Clay Logan Band.

Three of us headed to check out Big Country in Bossier. When we arrived, dance lessons were underway and the night ahead promised karaoke, so … we were on our way in less than 10. Ha! Next stop, the Horseshoe Casino’s club called Whiskey Roadhouse where there was one of the best saxophonists I’ve ever heard live. In the photo below, he’s on the keyboard.img_20180601_2047181066709916.jpg

From there, we drove to check out the band at Sam’s Town Live. No photo since we literally walked in, then out. Let’s just say the music wasn’t our cup of tea, or even a teeny weeny cookie crumb. Right down the sidewalk we went to the Eldorado Casino club, Celebrity Lounge, where we opted to spend the evening.

The band playing was from Dallas and absolutely incredible. They played old school and current music. We got there early, as you can tell from the empty seats around us, but they filled up!

Incredible night on the town and we danced almost every song, tagging each other for purse-watch duty. Needless to say, June 2 was spent self-nurturing at Auntie M’s on her couch.

Made decision to purchase larger tent, but not as big as six man tent I left behind in GA, so went with four man size. In reality, this size is comfortable for 1-2 people when anything more than sleeping bags are used. So, I found the new one at Wally World for $34.95 and assembled it at Auntie M’s to make sure it’ll do. Although only 4′ at highest point, it’s 9′ width is perfect for cot with plenty of space, power cord access hole, and better rain flap.

img_20180604_1254371732123499.jpgI passed the tiny tent to Auntie M’s neighbor for her grandson, Dawon. He was a happy camper when we set it up in their living room; such a cutie!

Since I’ll be hitting the road to East Texas in the morning, this afternoon and evening was spent visiting. At his invite, I grabbed a quick, light bite and nice chat at Trejos with Terry, then back to Auntie M’s before heading to Dad and Mardell’s for dinner. She cooked a fabulous dinner of fried green tomatoes, stuffed bell peppers and squash. Of course I took a photo!img_20180604_183307358608384.jpg

I’ve always wondered how to get the bell peppers softened without baking forever. She shared her ‘secret’ to boil the peppers with some salt, then stuff with the cooked goodies (lean meat with Zatarains dirty rice) and bake briefly to bring all together and melt cheese. Delicious!

Their tomato plants continue to grow and I love the simple and efficient support dad built. Those wire stands stink and cut into the growth…in my humble opinion. Ha!

img_20180604_190621212206204.jpgCheck out this incredible beauty and the plant! It’s growing ferociously, but no blooms yet. It was wonderful to see them. I’m still working on how to take selfies!img_20180604_2002511010023543.jpgOn my way out, I noticed this amazing tree at the front of their house had bloomed. Swung by Aunt Janis’ for quick hugs.

 

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