Sunday, June 24, 2018

I Excel at Leisure

I’ve always said my husband Ricky and I excel at leisure. This isn’t surprising because my childhood was filled with enjoyable vacations with my family, mostly at the South Carolina beaches, but sometimes in Florida.
Daddy with family friends' children and my sister (in middle)
Myrtle Beach, SC
My sisters and I (far right) in Florida
My sisters and I (middle) at the beach in SC rocking the sunglasses
and sailor hats!
Since we've been married, Ricky and I have been fortunate to travel to foreign soils, e.g., France, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, England. In 2017, we enjoyed a leisurely cruise on the Rhine with our neighbors, explored Guatemala with friends, and visited other friends and family across the United States. 

Feeding swans from our stateroom on the ship

Exploring different countries during our cruise
Volcanoes in Guatemala seen from hotel balcony
Lake Atitlan
Central square in Antigua, Guatemala 
So far in 2018 we are staying closer to home, but still having fun. In May, Ricky accompanied me to the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation Conference in Thibodaux, Louisiana. Conference attendees visited two plantation homes to see the architecture prevalent in the mid-nineteenth century. The first night of the conference, we attended a reception at Ducros Plantation in Schriever, Louisiana, about three miles from Thibodaux. This home had recently changed ownership, and was being renovated to feature an event venue downstairs and living quarters for the family upstairs.

Ducros Plantation
(Facebook page)
Madedown Plantation, a former sugar cane plantation built in 1846 on Bayou Lafourche near Napoleonville, provided an example of Greek Revival architecture. This plantation home was significant as the first major work of Henry Howard, an Irish-born American architect, who designed over 280 buildings in Louisiana. Madedown Plantation was recently purchased by American artist Hunt Slonem who is refurbishing the house and grounds, but the guide told us it will remain a bed-and-breakfast.
Arriving at Madedown Plantation
Madedown Plantation grounds
On the way home from Thibodaux, we stopped at the Shadetree Inn, a bed-and-breakfast located on a four-acre hilltop in St. Francisville, La and owned by an old friend of Ricky’s. After we checked in, Ricky chatted with Kenwood, and they filled each other in on their lives since they were last together. We ate supper at the Magnolia CafĂ©, a local hangout, and after a little shopping the next morning, we were ready to head back to northwest Louisiana.
Shadetree Inn
St. Francisville, La
Shadetree Inn patio
I love our historic Highland neighborhood, so I don’t feel deprived when we stay home in Shreveport. My friends Sarah and Howard opened their garden for our Northwest Louisiana Master Gardener Le Tour des Jardins in May, so I volunteered to work there during the two-day tour. I greeted and guided the public through my assigned section of the garden and answered questions—I learned a lot quickly. Mainly I relished the beauty of their garden the whole weekend.
Corner of Sarah & Howard's garden
Another perspective of "my" corner of Sarah & Howard's garden
Window frame re-envisioned 
While our neighborhood has some spectacular homes with curb appeal and lovely outdoor spaces, it’s a never-ending struggle to keep the entire neighborhood presentable. Many people litter or let their garbage can overflow. I can’t understand people who throw trash on the streets and sidewalks or who don’t monitor their blocks for litter. I prefer to be surrounded by beauty.

Toward this goal, the Highland Restoration Association picks up trash and does landscaping of selected beautification areas throughout the neighborhood.  If I am in town, I try to participate in the monthly trash pick-ups. It’s not a task most people enjoy, but I like coming together with other concerned citizens to improve the appearance of our neighborhood and hopefully to teach by example. One member of the HRA board involves his three young daughters in every clean-up.  They are diligent, cheerful workers, and it does my heart good to see them participate as a family.

A young volunteer pulling weeds
Another worthy initiative in our neighborhood is the quarterly Highland Open Studio Tour Sundays (HOSTS), which promotes art and artists in the neighborhood. June marked the fifth anniversary of HOSTS, and Ricky and I decided to open our house and showcase his blacksmithing “studio” under the camellia tree in our backyard. Ricky sold his LazyR wares, and I invited other artist friends to display and sell their art at our house during HOSTS. We ended up with six artists, including my multi-talented friends Melissa and Loretta. We also had the Fiddlin’s Tim Trio (Tim, Bruce and Randy) playing their mix of standards, swing, and jazz in our guest cottage.

Ricky at his forge, Lazy R Ranch
Ricky's horse head hooks

Ricky displays his hooks on our patio during HOST

Horse head hook in my library
Since HOSTS started at noon on Sunday, all the studios served food and drinks. We offered a variety of finger sandwiches and cookies, washed down with either lemonade or Moscow Mules. One studio had gumbo, another jambalaya. While attendees browsed and purchased the art, they could essentially eat a meal, especially if they went to every studio.

We paid the Fiddlin’ Tim Trio by buying them tickets to the Shreveport House Concert scheduled for later that night and featuring renowned New Orleans drummer Johnny Vidacovich.  OffBeat magazine in its Best of the Beat Awards has named “Johnny V” as Best Drummer/Percussionist on numerous occasions. Drummerworld called Johnny V “the quintessential New Orleans jazz drummer, with all the exuberance and skill befitting one who grew up in the birthplace of jazz.” 

Johnny V lived up to his reputation. Our friend Bruce Gay of the Fiddlin’ Tim Trio described the concert afterwards:  Johnny V "was a gnome on a throne--he twisted, turned, bounced to rhythms he felt. He WAS the different drummer people dance to. He was rhythm itself. His band was great--better than great- engaging, funny, chops like you hear about.”

Beautiful serene gardens, original art, volunteer activities, live music, good friends—they are all part of the View from my Highland Cottage, and I feel so fortunate.