Happy Canada Day! Eat Some (Strawberry) Pie!

Happy Canada Day, everyone!  We are celebrating Canada Day as our tradition dictates:  hot dog bar with a red-and-white dessert.  In this case, I am making Strawn’s Strawberry Pie using a recipe that I found, first on Food.com (but without the crust recipe), and then the complete recipe in a cookbook I found at Sam’s when my in-laws’ were visiting, Southern Living Off the Eaten Path On the Road Again.  I have been obsessed with Strawn’s pie crust at first bite.  It’s almost a crackery crust, if that makes any since.  Tender it is not, but it is still unique enough to be yummy…and obsession-causing.

I first made the pie during my in-laws’ visit, and I was disappointed that I didn’t have the crust recipe.  The filling recipe is all over the Internet.  The crust recipe that they use for all of their pies–strawberry, chocolate, coconut, and peach.

Strawn’s is a Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana, institution.  And they are known for their pies, particularly their strawberry pies.  The crackery crust, the deep red fresh strawberry filling made extra ruddy with a nip of red food coloring, topped by white billowy clouds of sweetened whipped cream molded into a low center peak.  A big, whole juicy berry right in the center denotes that it is a strawberry pie.

Josh’s first introduction to Strawn’s pies was interesting.  Josh first worked for Circle K, the convenience store, when we were first married.  He met one of the employees at Strawn’s; in fact, she was a customer of his.  She would sometimes bring him a leftover pie at the end of the night if she knew that he would be working.  We ate well during those months.

I’ve been known to visit our local Strawn’s with Josh and Muffin for a late breakfast, putting off breakfast as long as possible, in fact, so that there are pies available to cut for a slice for breakfast.  It has dairy, grain, and fruit…three of the four food groups.  It counts as a breakfast, right?

The first attempt rested on a purchased shortbread crust.  It was good…it just wasn’t the same.  Wish me luck today as I use the following recipe in its entirety.

No changes or augmentations on this one, folks.  You know it’s serious when I don’t change any component of a recipe, but this one will be made as stated.

Strawberry Pie (Strawn’s)

Source:  Southern Living Off the Eaten Path On the Road Again


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cold butter, cut into pieces

1/4 cup cold shortening, cut into pieces

2 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. table salt

3 Tbsp. ice water

Strawberry Filling

3/4 cup sugar

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

Pinch of table salt

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. red liquid food coloring

3 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

1 cup heavy whipping cream (Bring it up to a pint is closer…oops…one change to be made)

1 Tbsp. sugar (Another change to be made…I would recommend closer to 3 Tbsp.)

1.  Prepare Pastry:  Combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl with a pastry blender until mixture resembles small peas.  Sprinkle ice water, one tablespoon at a time, over surface of mixture in bowl; stir with a fork until dry ingredients are moistened.  Gather dough into a flat disk; cover and chill 1 hour.

2.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Roll dough into a 13-inch circle on a lightly floured surface.  Fit into a 9-inch pie plate; fold edges under, and crimp.

3.  Line pastry with aluminum foil, and fill with pie weights or dry beans.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.  Remove weights and foil; bake 15-20 more minutes or until golden brown, shielding edges if necessary.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

4.  Prepare Strawberry Filling:  Combine first 3 ingredients in a saucepan; stir in 3 tablespoons water until a past forms.  Slowly stir in 1 cup water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; boil 1 minute or until thickened.  Stir in lemon juice and food coloring.  Remove from heat.  Fill a large bowl with ice; place pan in ice, and let stand, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes or until cool.  Stir in strawberries.

5.  Beat whipping cream until foamy; gradually add sugar, beating until soft peaks form.

6.  Spread filling in piecrust.  Top with whipped cream.  Chill at least 2 hours.  Makes:  8 servings.

By the way, this is an excellent cookbook.  I plan on making the Gelato di Superior Pub Cookie from the Arkansas section of the cookbook, scooped out in 1/2 cup portions and containing such goodies as oats, coconut, chocolate chips, pretzel sticks, and Oreos.  Muffin has been wanting to make cookies, so this looks like the cookie to make…next week when things aren’t so crazy.

Happy Patriotic Holidays, everyone!

Advent Calendar Activities: December 1

Meet Ketchup (because he’s red) the Elf.

He brought Muffin a new pair of pajamas as his welcome gift.  Muffin was very surprised and happy that Ketchup (newly renamed because we all seem to have forgotten his name) arrived safe and sound.

My mom purchased LEGO Advent Calendars for my nephews and Muffin (LEGO Star Wars for my oldest nephew and LEGO City for Muffin and my youngest nephew).  Muffin has literally (well…figuratively) chomping at the bit to begin his calendar.  After we got home this afternoon, he made quick work of today’s surprise:  a boy carrying letters.

Today marks the beginning of the Advent activities that I had planned today.  Today’s was a near-miss.  Muffin worked to create a LEGO ornament…which then became pieces of cargo (yes…pieces…as in he broke it all up…but he promised to make another one) for the cars of one of his trains.

This is the photo of what he did before it became train car cargo:

How are your advent activities going?


Thoughtful Thursday: On the Holidays


We are in the midst of the holiday season. Whether you believe it or not, for many people who celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, the holiday season begins in mid October. I see all of this hater angst about the holiday season on Facebook on Pinterest and all over social media and television media. I don’t understand it. There people who are fighting mad that people have already put up Christmas decorations. I would think the absence of holiday spirit would be worse  then a surplus of it. And yet the reverse seems true. Yes, I am one of those individual who already has Christmas music blaring on the car radio. I have my copy of Elf all ready to play on my mobile device. Muffin has already nagged Josh several times as to when he will put up the Christmas decorations. I have already begun planning the Christmas baking list to do for the season.

I’ve always considered the holiday season to be a reflection on what is best about humanity. Yes I have made sure to watch some of my favorite Christmas movies made by Hallmark and look forward to any new ones that shall be created and shown the season.

That is why it is so disconcerting when people vilify the holiday season. I realize it is stressful season, but the joy of the season brings to others… Family, friends, and virtual strangers that you meet… Far outweighs  the angst the season can cause. 

So if you are a person who could be likened to Ebenezer Scrooge, I ask you this: give the holiday season, it’s joyous participants, its bright lights, and the hope of a better, brighter tomorrow infuse your spirit and your soul with warmth and purpose.  I say to you Merry Christmas!

We Plan Wednesday: A New Blog Series for December


Yes…I have been MIA.   I have been doing very many things…with my family…with work…and with planning for the blog.   I have something new to work toward:  25 days of holiday recipes…appropriate for Christmas…Thanksgiving…New Year’s Eve…and New Year’s Day.  Some are brand new to the blog…and some are re-fashioned favorites of recipes I’ve already posted.  I hope you’ll be impressed with my best. 

Here are few recipes that you will be seeing:

Sea salt caramel truffles
Sparkling apple cider
cornbread dressing vs white bread dressing
My take on Yams Richard
Chicken and steak fajitas
Pico de gallo
Spanish rice
Nanaimo bars
Pecan pie
cranberry relish
chocolate dipped licorice
Olive bread
BBQ little sausages
Red velvet cake the right way
How to make greens from frozen
And many other surprises

If you’re going through Christmas withdrawal, be sure to visit my 12 days of Christmas in July
entries and round up. If you are one of those people who feels that Christmas is beginning to early each year, I apologize but respectfully disagree. I think the world could do with more Christmas spirit all year… The sharing, the caring, the generosity toward others, and tolerance and patience for other’s shortcomings.

I wish you in advance Merry Christmas, happy holidays, happy new year, and a great year next year.

Here are a few of the recipes I plan to feature:

Canadian Thanksgiving: Cranberry Relish

My sister and brother-in-law use two recipes at holiday time from The Commander’s Palace Cookbook:  Yams Richard and the cranberry-orange relish.  Both are amped up versions of holiday classics.  Yams Richard is an uber sweet potato casserole complete with pecans, marshmallows, butter, and, of course, that yummy Louisiana starchy vegetable roasted to syrup-oozing-out-of-the-steamholes perfection.

The cranberry orange relish, in contrast, is a tartly sweet, slightly boozy complement to the ubiquitous canned jellied cranberry sauce.  From previous experience I have seen leftover relish further blended and further booze-infused to create a cran-orange margarita or daiquiri.  Delish!

I have been buying up and freezing bags of cranberries post-holiday season in order to make this relish for Canadian Thanksgiving (otherwise as the time that occurs too early for the southern United States to stock bags of fresh cranberries).

But I should be glad that we don’t have a surveillance camera trained on the fridge in the kitchen because I have been guilty (quite a few times) of scooping out a surreptitious spoonful of relish before Monday.

It’s addictive.

And here’s what I did:

Cranberry-Orange Relish

Source:  The Commander’s Palace Cookbook

1 pound cranberries

2 oranges, peeled (peel discarded)

1 cup sugar

1 ounce rum

1 ounce orange liqueur (The recipe calls for Grand Marnier, but I don’t live on a Grand Marnier budget.  I live on a orange liqueur budget)

Blend until “relish”-sized pieces and refrigerate at least overnight.

Sample judiciously and surreptitiously.


Serve with turkey or on dressing/stuffing.  Serve by the spoonful in a big bowl.  Or just serve a big bowl and get out of my way!

Yes.  It’s that good.

Canadian Thanksgiving: Nanaimo Bars


Can you identify this famous bar?

I first ate these, oddly enough, at a local restaurant.  Josh and I were newly married (pre-Muffin), and were making a rare splurge out to eat.  This is the same restaurant known for its tomato-basil soup (that…well…if you remember from the post…it definitely isn’t Le Mad’s), but they have a big to-go refrigerated case.

I had heard Josh mention (quite a few times) Nanaimo bars.  I had heard them mentioned in Corner Gas (well…Nanaimo-style Saskatchewan Bars).

I had never seen them before.  And I had never tasted them before.

I should note that, just as with the tomato-basil soup, this restaurant didn’t quite corner the market on Nanaimo Bars.  They were missing something…namely custard powder, I believe.

They were good…just not what I now know to be more Nanaimo-like…Nanaimo-esque?

So, I went on the hunt.  The site that was still then Recipezaar (now Food.com) had a large Canadian contingent.  Someone on there had to have a good Nanaimo Bar recipe.

After a few misses, I located it:  Kittencal’s Best Nanaimo Bars (No Bake).  I do make some alterations.  But, for the most part, I keep the recipe as pure as I can make it.

Nanaimo Bars

Adapted from Food.com

Bottom Layer

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

5 tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)

1 egg, beaten

1 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (I actually purchased crumbs specifically for this)

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (Her recipe calls for almonds)

1 cup finely chopped (“fancy” shredded) coconut

Middle Layer

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

3 scant tablespoons whipping cream

2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder (I use Bird’s brand which my sister recently informed me is available at Cost Plus World Market)

2 cups confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar to some)

Top Layer

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon whipping cream (She says optional.  I think it’s completely necessary)

For bottom layer:  On low heat in a saucepan, melt the first three ingredients, remove from heat.  Let the saucepan cool for a few minutes.  Stir in egg to combine and thicken (I’ve not let the mixture cool and had chocolate-flavored scrambled egg before).  Stir in remaining bottom layer ingredients.

Press firmly into prepared ungreased 8×8-inch square Pyrex pan.  The mixture will be crumbly but will appear to become a solid layer once tamped down.

For the middle layer:  cream the middle layer ingredients.  I used my Kitchen Aid for the first time on this attempt and it creates a smoother product than a hand mixer.

Spread over bottom layer.  Refrigerate 10-15 minutes while preparing the top layer.

For the top layer:  microwave chips, cream, and butter for one minute.  Slowly stir or whisk together until the consistency of slightly thick chocolate syrup.

Pour evenly over the middle layer, smoothing out with a spoon, a spoonula, a spatula, or a knife if necessary.

Refrigerate 1 hour before cutting.

The recipe says it makes 16 (which would be 2×2 bars).  I would recommend much smaller squares because at over half a pound of butter, they are very rich.

This recipe is completely Muffin Approved (and the only dessert that I prepped for Thanksgiving that my mom or I would eat).

Muffin Approved

The Pinteresting Blogosphere: I Love Fall; I Promise

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m obsessed with the Pinteresting Blogosphere.

But recently I thought of taking a hiatus…going on strike…from the Pinteresting Blogosphere.

Now, don’t get me wrong:  I love fall, autumn, the autumnal equinox.  I love sweater weather, October (my birth month), Thanksgiving (both the Canadian and the American varieties), shorter days, jack o’lanterns, apple recipes, and soups.

However, there is one thing about autumn I most definitely DO NOT like.


I have a feeling you are scratching your head now.  Wait a sec…she said she likes jack o’lanterns, and those are made from pumpkins.  Please, let me clarify.  I hate pumpkin recipes.

I’m very happy when my Pinterest feed is clogged with casserole recipes, chocolate delights, red velvet anything, and salted caramel everything.  Yet, right now, my Pinterest feed is infested…absolutely overrun…with…PUMPKIN.

I think I have a can of pumpkin mush somewhere in the house.  I think it may be out of date by a few years or so.

Now, I realize there are those (quite obviously, if my Pinterest feed is to be believed) that actually seem to like pumpkin.  I don’t have anything against you personally; I promise.

But my stomach does this really weird caving in on itself in fear (a pucker) when I view those pumpkinny “delights.”  Cakes.  No.  Pies.  Well, I don’t eat it, but it is tradition at Thanksgiving, so my husband and dad eat it.  French toast.  No.  Ravioli or pasta of any kind with pumpkin in it.  Revolting.  Cookies.  Please.  Just.  No.  Granola.  Whyyyyyyyyy?  Cinnamon rolls?  Really?  What did the poor cinnamon roll do to you?????  Cheesecake cupcakes sound yummy…until I glance to the word in front of cheesecake.  Pumpkin.  And this insidious “Got pumpkin?  10 delicious pumpkin recipes for fall!”  Uh.  No.

Dear Pinteresting Board of Directors:

Please, please, puhleeze, give us the option to screen certain items with let’s say the keyword of pumpkin out of our Pinterest feed.  Thank you very much.  Sincerely, A Pinterest-obsessed person.

I do, however, really enjoy sweet potato recipes.  I live in the south, after all.  I love sweet potato pie.  I love sweet potato bread and rolls and muffins.  I love sweet potatoes baked in their (slightly leathery) jackets until their syrup oozes out of the fork holes so made to allow steam to escape.  I love them with butter…with cream…with mushrooms…with cinnamon…and with brown sugar.  I love them mashed.  I love them with pecans.  I love them, Sam-I-am.

I do NOT, however, like sweet potatoes in savory dishes.  That’s where it crosses the line into pumpkin insanity.  A sweet potato should never debut in pasta…or swim in soups or chilis…or nap in savory casseroles.  Yes, I realize they are a superfood and people believe all superfoods should be in everything, but give the sweet tater it’s due…and leave it out of things that make some people go ew!

In the coming week, I will be sharing with you several recipes that make Canadian Thanksgiving happen in our house.  I hope you enjoy.  And…to bring it all back to pumpkin:  Yes, as I mentioned above, pumpkin pie will make an appearance on the table, but it will not be made by me.  That is one thing I do not do homemade.

Sunday Supper: Cabbage Roll Casserole and Josh’s Fab Serving Suggestion for the Peanut Butter Bars

I love cabbage rolls!

There.  I said it.  Call me a nerd if ya want, but I love cabbage rolls.  My first cabbage rolls were consumed at Lea’s…for those of you in the know…yes, the pie restaurant in the Pie Capital of Louisiana (so named because of the existence of Lea’s), Home of the Louisiana Pie Festival (because of Lea’s, of course), Lecompte, Louisiana.

I remember it was a Sunday, and it was one of those trips that my mom and I took when we were touring the state (or on the way back from my sister’s).  I saw it as the daily special, and figured that I like cabbage, so it must be okay.  Plus, we were in the South, and it was the main dish, so it had to have meat in it, right?

When it arrived, I was in for a shock.  Nestled and smothered in a sweet and tangy tomato sauce were these little rolls of stuffed cabbage-y perfection.  Rice, meat, and spices filled the perfectly rolled rolls.  Shocker of shockers:  Lea’s pie has nothing on their cabbage rolls.  Just sayin’.  I’ve wanted to recreate them since.

Flash forward several years, and I, now married, am visiting with Josh his grandma just over the border (on the Quebec side) from Ottawa.  There she introduced me to something I have searched in vain for down here.  We, the people of the United States, have it wrong!  For all of our frozen and processed food, we left out one frozen dinner delight (maybe it’s available where you are, but not here):  frozen cabbage rolls.  I think they are made by Stouffer or its equivalent in Canada.  She (Josh’s grandma) didn’t realize that I knew what they were; Josh didn’t realize my nearly scary obsession with them.  I may have made a bit of a pig of myself with them.

Did I mention that I love cabbage rolls?

In all of my research, yes, I did come across several recipes for cabbage rolls.  My eyes would usually glaze over in despair at the first step:  remove the leaves of the cabbage and blanch/boil/steam them until pliable.  Remove from the water and drain.  And therein lies the problem:  I do not blanch/boil/steam well.  Take rice, for example.  I can make fairly complex sauces to serve on rice.  If you have a couple of hours to spare, I can make a gravy that will make you weep.  Yet, boiling rice makes ME blanch.  I’m better at it than I used to be, but I’ve been known to have gummy stuck-on rice, perfectly cooked rice, and hard-as-rocks-not-done rice, all in the same pot of water.

So, that one scary step kept me from it.  Trust me; there’s a reason Josh is the boiler of lasagna (and other pasta) noodles in the house.

Cabbage (cooked cabbage, at least) is one ingredient Muffin has really never shown much interest in.  I think he’s eaten sauerkraut before, but that’s not the same.  St. Patrick’s Day was coming up, and this is the first year that he’s old enough to really pay much attention to the day.  On Monday (by the yearly calendar), I had originally scheduled to make this cabbage rolls, but then I found this casserole that has a fairly hands-on baking time of two hours (in that you have to stir it and add more water in the last half hour), and realized it wasn’t going to happen on a work day.

Plus, it didn’t involve boiling/blanching/steaming cabbage leaves, simply chopping up the cabbage and baking the heck out of it.  When I pulled out the head of cabbage, Muffin asked if it was “salad,” his turn for lettuce or greens.  Sometimes he likes salad; sometimes he doesn’t.  It depends.  I had a backup plan if he turned up his nose at it (telling him to pick out the meat and rice).  I did change it from the original recipe found at the Black Peppercorn.  I did change the recipe some, so I will be posting it as I did below.  If I make it again, I will probably slow cooker it, simply because if it had been any warmer outside, inside the house would have been unbearable with the oven being at 350 for 2 hours and being opened and closed four times in that time while being open for a minute or so each time.  And I believe that it would cause the cabbage and rice to get softer.

Here goes:

Cabbage Roll Casserole

Adapted from the Black Peppercorn (see link above)

1 pound ground pork

3/4 pound ground beef

1 onion, minced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon crushed thyme (closer to a dash for us–not big on thyme here)

1 small head of cabbage, cored with tougher parts removed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 1/2 cups uncooked white rice (I hate to imagine how long you would have to cook brown rice in this casserole)

2 cans crushed tomatoes (14.5-14.75 ounces each)

3 cups of water with 2 beef bouillon cubes dissolved in it

1-2 tablespoons sugar

This recipe makes A TON.  Seriously.  Using the heavy casserole pan, I wasn’t able to lift it.  It took Josh to lift it.

Brown pork and beef over medium heat in a skillet.  At this point, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Add in spices (except for sugar), onion, and garlic.  Cook until onion is super soft and translucent.  While doing this, place the other ingredients in your LARGEST mixing bowl.  Seriously.  It needs to be a big one.  BIG.  The cabbage alone took up half of mine.  And I’m kind of a wild stirrer…trust me, give yourself plenty of stirring room.  Once the meaty portion is done, dump it in your mixing bowl, scraping all the goodness out of the skillet.

Transfer all of this to a large casserole dish.  Mine was full before all of it started cooking.  After ninety minutes of cooking, it filled it to the brim (rice expansion).

Cover with foil.  I forgot this step for the first portion of the cooking.  It turned out okay, but I made sure to cover it for the remainder of the cooking time.

Bake for forty-five minutes.  Take out and stir.  Thoroughly.

Bake forty-five more minutes, for a total of ninety minutes.  Stir again.  Test a fairly fibrous bit of cabbage by blowing on it to cool it, reminding your husband (who so generously offered to remove and replace the casserole each time it needed to be moved) that its hot before offering it to said husband who then dances around because…yes…the cabbage was hot.  Just as the groundhog determines whether we are ready for spring or not, your husband will determine that yes, it needs ninety more minutes.  Add up to one-half cup of water (I added around six tablespoons…between a fourth of a cup and a half).

Bake thirty more minutes.  Go do something useful during this time, such as washing your hair.  Yes, I did that.

Ask husband politely to remove the casserole again from the oven.

Make a pig of yourself.

Repeat as necessary.

Seriously, this recipe has a lot of vegetation in it, so you should be okay to consume copious quantities of its goodness.

The verdict according to Muffin.  I explained to him after explaining that there was a cabbage in front of him instead of a head of lettuce that we were eating it in honor of St. Patrick for his day (well, the day before, but it was almost the 17th in Ireland when we sat down to eat).  Muffin’s reaction to the casserole caused both of us to shake our heads in amazement.  I gave him a saucer full, around half a cup.  He ate every bite and then thanked us for the cabbage.


This recipe is definitely Muffin Approved.

Muffin ApprovedAnd then came dessert, or ‘Zert, as Muffin calls it.  We’ve had ice cream in the fridge with the express hope of doing shakes one night (last week I believe), but in the same week as nearly 80 degree temperatures, the cold snap hit last Saturday, leaving the menfolk in no mood for shakes (and me in no mood for a sorbet fizz).

But even I had to risk pain from dairy intolerance over what Josh concocted.

It all started with ice cream, Breyer’s all natural vanilla (what used to be Vanilla Bean, I guess).  Then came the caramel syrup.  And then came what had to have been what the lunch ladies were thinking about when they created the peanut butter bars.  One bar right smack dab on top and then chipped away with each bite of ice cream and caramel to create something near Blizzard-y in perfection.  Or at least the best sundae ever.

Muffin, who had just consumed quite a bit of cabbage roll casserole, ate a scoop with some syrup and a bar.

I had three bites before the pain kicked in, and I figured I better call it quits.  Because I might have just gone for broke and eaten it all (I was sharing Josh’s) regardless of the pain.

Needless to say, ‘Zert was also Muffin Approved.

Muffin ApprovedWhat was your Sunday Supper like?

The Krewe of Centaur Parade

Muffin called it the circus until the parade started. I’m not sure if it’s because Centaur sounds like circus or because parades are supposed to be festive and so are circuses.

When the parade was over, he insisted that he had fun and liked the parade, especially the “train float.” Thank you, Krewe of Centaur for including a train float.

The day started well enough, but we had decided to wait to leave for the parade at 3 (because we left too early two years ago when we last went to the parade). Our plan was to park at WalMart, eat at the Subway there, and shop a bit before the parade. Until we got to the place we planned to turn only to discover that the streets were closed. At 3:30 (And the parade did not show up at that location, the end of the route, until 7). The parade itself didn’t start several miles away until 4:30.

So, we altered our plans a bit. We went down to the next side street and paid the Methodist church $5 for parking (to go to the youth ministry) and trekked with our bag and chair (and Muffin) to the end of the street (only to realize that we were close to Super 1. We decided to trek over there, but we ended up behind the barricade at the last turn (where there was still space). I was still surprised that the area behind the barricade was fairly empty.

Muffin played a bit while I went to track down food. Super 1 was closed! The wine and spirits part of Super 1 was open, but the grocery store itself was closed. Panic set in. Subway was out of the question (we were a mile or so from Walmart). Quizno’s in the same shopping center as Super 1 was closed.

I called Josh, and he said there was a Taco Bell down the street. At this point, I entered the “I no longer care as long as it is not alive when I eat it” mode. So, he and Muffin went to Taco Bell while I held down the fort.

We ate our Taco Bell but still had several hours to wait.

We met some very lovely people, a family from Texas and a man and his two sons who lived somewhere around the parade route. But there were some clear negatives. There were no public restrooms (portapotties or otherwise) nearby. Do you know how maddening it is to be in leaping distance of a porta-potty for hours and having to use the restroom so badly…and not be able to go?

Public drunkenness is to be expected. It is Mardi Gras, after all. While this isn’t the French Quarter, it is in the state boundary of Louisiana (barely), so raucousness is to be expected. I get that. But drunks who have to help other drunks stay on their feet? And who (in their right mind or otherwise) would risk public drunkenness with no restroom or porta-potty to use (either to relieve oneself or to be physically ill)?

Not I, said the grasshopper.

I think it’s important to be goal-oriented in many things. Including parade attendance. Our goal for the parade was to snatch up procure as many Mardi Gras cups as possible. I exaggerate only a smidgen when I say that in the first ten years of my life, I can remember NOT drinking from a Mardi Gras cup at home a handful of times. Mardi Gras cups are fine china.

Our goal was to also keep an eye on Muffin at all times. On our way home (after Muffin had passed out from exhaustion–we will call this time date night), Josh had a mini-rant (that I was in full agreement with): we saw several kids that seemed to be sans parents at the parade. Running around. Almost being run over by floats (the kid’s fault, not the parade participants’), hitting other kids with a scooter (I’m emotionally scarred by that one), and just not being supervised. Added to that, there were a few people (one guy in particular) that gave off a creepy, pedophile-vibe. Lots of people who are distracted, lots of kids left to their own devices, one pedophile is all it takes. Super scary.

Muffin was frighteningly well-behaved. Especially for having naptus interruptus after only 30 minutes or so of napping. And having to wait for the parade for hours.

Did I mention (and this is also alarming) that there were no trash cans? I almost feel sorry for the people who were set to clean up after the parade, but they didn’t put out the trash cans. And they had the porta-potty that I stared at for four hours unable to use.

Now, let me say this: I was a West Bank baby (not West Bank in the Middle East, but I was born on the West Bank of the Mississippi River in New Orleans). Yes, it’s possible. There’s a little smidge of New Orleans on that side of the river. As a result of my birthplace, it seems that I am capable of doing the following.

Keep in mind that I have no sense of balance or ability to play most sports that involve throwing or catching or walking and breathing at the same time, even. Yet, in parades my hands have superglue on them; I seem to be able to catch any throw that comes at me or passes me. I also seem to develop this ability to scream and holler and keep my hands held high. Yes, the dirt of my birthplace does that to you. You are coded at birth to capture throws from a Mardi Gras parade float. And to call it to me (if you count screaming like a banshee and waving my arms wildly above my head calling it to me).

At the end of the evening, we managed to catch/be given the following: several pounds of beads, 13 cups plus one that was split that I will use as a pencil cup in my classroom (score!), 2 stuffed animals (including a jester bear made for that particular krewe’s float), one large frisbee and several smaller frisbees.

I will be posting pictures soon from the parade. But. I. Must. Sleep. Now.

Happy North American Holidays!

Happy Belated Canada Day and Happy Fourth of July (or Independence Day, if you prefer).  The Fourth has always been among my favorite holidays.  I get to don red and blue apparel, sing patriotic songs in the bath, eat yummy barbecue, gorge myself on watermelon (It is in the fridge, and that makes me happy), and enjoy fireworks.  One year ago today, we were heading up north to Canada (and, therefore, didn’t get to celebrate the Fourth).  That was okay, since my favorite Fourth activity, fireworks, was banned due to a local burn ban.  Also, about one year ago (minus 12 hours), while in Alabama (near Ft. Payne), I hydroplaned (burn ban and hydroplane should never be in the same blog entry) as the rain poured down.  In Alabama.  When I called my parents at my sister’s, I could just imagine what was going through their minds (But, we are in the middle of a burn ban, so how could it possibly be raining in Alabama?).  A lot of the time we get the precursor of Alabama weather, so this was a valid point to consider.  We were all okay, except for our poor Scion (that probaby should have been totaled had the insurance estimate been complete).

On an emotional front, things weren’t going so well.  Josh was worried that we wouldn’t be able to continue our trip.  After the big accident that ended with parts of my beloved Corolla (may he rest in peace) in a bucket, I really don’t do well with accidents.  (Although, one of my coworkers later mentioned that, when I called our fellow coworker to tell her about the accident…a day later…I was remarkably calm.)

But, God has a plan for everything.  Our agent-less insurance jumped right to work (Our present insurance agency–sans agent–has done more for us in four years than my agented-to-the-hilt insurance policy did for me for the previous ten years.) procuring us a vehicle.  Of course, the rental car companies were closed on the Fourth, but on the afternoon of the fifth, Progressive promised that a guy would be by from the Hertz in Chattanooga (the nearest car rental place that had a car available to travel to Canada), an hour away, with a van.

While walking outside our hotel, I saw a Sienna pull up to the entryway and a man get out.  He didn’t seem to be looking for anyone, so I just let it go for a few minutes.  Finally, I pointed him out to Josh (the man didn’t seem to be attempting to enter the hotel), and Josh asked if he was there for us.  He was, and the first two bits of goodness happened on our trip:  we got to drive a Sienna the rest of the way (I’ve driven my parents before and love it) and we got to meet one very interesting personality:  our Hertz driver.  He told us his life’s story (which was fascinating) while he drove us back to Hertz in Chattanooga for Josh to sign the papers.  Our one “oh, no” moment was that he was going to be out of town and wouldn’t be our driver on the way back to Alabama on the day we returned the Sienna.

Flash forward to one day later than we thought we would be returning to Chattanooga (which was our date of return because just before we left Canada, the shop working on the Scion discovered a leak in the transmission).  Our driver from Hertz was back from being out of town, so he drove us back to Alabama (after a fairly hilarious detour tour through Chattanooga in an attempt to chase a UPS driver carrying his new phone.  Somehow, after chasing him down, he still ended up with the wrong box…the  box meant for his landlord.)  I’ve thought about requesting a used Sienna in a few years from Hertz to purchase (It was very hard to give it back when we returned to Alabama) and having him deliver it.  It would make for a very big laugh or twenty.  🙂

Cheers and Happy Fourth of July (My trip wrap up, Canada Day post, and others will probably be posted after Josh goes to Georgia…for four weeks instead of two away one back and two more away…on Sunday.  Well, they probably won’t be posted until Monday because I’ll be driving back from Dallas Sunday evening.)