Sign for Fleur De Lis Tea Farm sign on North Cooper Road
Fleur De Lis Tea Company & Farm

Tea is a favorite drink worldwide with multiple types, formulations, and flavors. And in our little region of Louisiana, there’s a tea farm, too. Tour a local tea farm with me on a beautiful October Saturday morning.

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Hi, again, Dear Readers:

No, three tea blogs this year weren’t enough. I had to blog again about tea. But this isn’t the stuff in the grocery store–it’s locally grown here, no kidding, and incredible. And no, I’m not growing it myself–yet.

The weather has been particularly bipolar this year. It was cool when I went to the farm on the Saturday morning before my birthday. I was wearing summer clothes on my birthday and bundled up a few days later on Halloween. It’s like that sometimes this time of year. Last week news came that El Niňo will be giving us some snow in the South this winter, but how much snow is anyone’s guess. BF has not forgotten being cold nearly three years ago, and the news didn’t make him feel better.

Let’s take a ride to a tea farm.

Finding New Local Things

As a copywriter, I do a lot of research. It’s nothing for me to open a search engine and look for something anytime I’m online. At any given point, I may be researching from case law to telecom to AI and everything in between. I usually go between two or three browsers if I’m having a hard time finding additional information or the exact same thing on all the websites.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I was bored and looking for something. I think it was for local attractions and “things to do.” All of a sudden, I found in the search results a place called Fleur De Lis Tea Company located in the nebulous area between Amite and Loranger, Louisiana.

Screenshot of Fleur De Lis' website

Source: Fleur De Lis Tea Company website

There’s a tea farm? Around here? And they grow tea? SAY WHAT?? I had to check this out for myself.

First Stop: Website

Naturally, the first thing I did was check out their website and their social media. They have both a Facebook and Instagram account for the place along with a YouTube channel. You can see a short minute-and-a-half tour of the place. (Or you can look at the pictures I took while I was there.)

David Barron is the farm’s owner, who began growing tea from gifted plants in the area in 2017. He has a woodworking shop on the premises, and the products of that shop are in the following pictures.

Gazebo over the lake

The gazebo, outside on the grounds, usually used for weddings.

Guess what happened in 2017 in this area? That’s right, it snowed–six inches, to be exact. While Houston, Galveston, New Orleans, and other close-to-the-coast cities were reveling in a half-inch dusting of snow, we had half a foot, and so did the farm. But the tea plants survived.

Fleur De Lis’ website has plenty of great pictures of the place that really do it justice. Their blog also has plenty of information about them, including Scottish tea expert Beverly Wainwright, who came over to work with the team on their teas and bring them to market.

And then I saw it–book a tea tour! This weekend! (It was October 21, and the next one will be November 25, the Saturday after Thanksgiving.) You can buy a ticket to a public tour or book your own. The ticket wasn’t expensive, and I was going it alone anyway since BF had to work (and wasn’t interested, of course.) So, I took myself out on a little birthday excursion.

The Tea Tour

On a beautiful and slightly cool October morning, I drove out to the tea Farm for the tour.

Sign for Fleur De Lis Tea Farm sign on North Cooper Road

There it is!

I’ve been in this area before, but I did not remember seeing the sign. It’s a long rural drive once you get past the farms and residences. Turn right at the motor shop on the left. The farm and the tea house are nestled in the woods, literally. The very nice Hans Marchese, the manager, greeted us when we drove up.

Hans Marchese giving a talk

That’s him, both effervescent and knowledgeable.

He’s the tea harvesting and processing guy who works hard every day picking and processing the leaves. Hans is also a vocal proponent of the place that will tell you anything you want to know. I was surprised to see so many people there. About 30 or 40 attendees arrived for the tour, including several who drove up from the New Orleans area. (The drive from there is about 90 minutes one way.) I had no idea that so many people knew about the place. But there we were, walking around and looking at tea plants about two feet high.

The Plants

The tea is grown from nursery-grade Camellia Sinensis plants. They are a variety from Georgia in the old USSR. Russia had a wish to have its own variety of teas. This type grows at low elevations, so it grows nicely in Louisiana, just like the rice that grows here.

Tea Growing

Aren’t they pretty? And the little flowers were growing, too.

Hans carefully cultivates and cares for the tea plants and prunes them regularly. He explained that the soil’s acidity must be 4.5 to 5.4 for an ideal growing medium. Deep pine needles in the area offer acidity and mulch to the ground. They’re planted under the tall pine trees so they don’t grow too fast. If that happens, the aromatics in the tea plants will dissipate.

These tea plants need just the right amount of water and copious amounts of nitrogen. Too much water and the plants drown. Fortunately, they have have a great irrigation system for years like this one where we had so little rain.

Irrigation system

Just right for a tea farm.

Everything made it through the summer!

Someone in the group asked about organic growing. Hans explained that they use inorganic fertilizer out of necessity. Growing organic results in a 40% reduction in production, so it’s not feasible. Organic is fine for home gardeners like myself. But organic isn’t really suitable for larger-scale farms. The good news is that they have no need for pesticides or herbicides.

There are also beehives and bees on the farm.

Beehive on a post

I think we saw one or two bees, but I wasn’t looking much.

The flowers offer supplemental food for the little pollinators, especially during the winter months. They also dehydrate the flowers and blend them into the teas.

Not all the fields are mature yet, so Fleur De Lis’ output has varied. In 2022, they’ve harvested 50 pounds, and so far in 2023, they’ve harvested 150 pounds. So a harvest in 2024 could be equal, more, or less than previous years. The amount depends on several factors, primarily the weather.

Fleur De Lis Tea Farm also harvests their own seeds for themselves and other suppliers. The Camellia flowers grow only from seed, not from cuttings. The seeds offer biodiversity in case of a future hazard that can wipe out all the plants. That’s why Tabasco has its signature peppers growing in different parts of the world, not just on Avery Island.

Processing Tea

Hans explained the four-step process for the tea leaves. Everything is time-dependent, he explains, and one must pay complete attention to the process. He even showed us the equipment:

Drying racks

I think this was for sorting after the harvest.


Round drying racks

I think these were for drying after sorting.

Pressure machine

This presses the leaves and gets all the liquid out

Three weeks on, I don’t remember what this was for, but I’m guessing it’s drying or another process:

Japanese made machine for tea

I should have written it all down!

Everything has to be absolutely dry before packaging, or the tea will turn moldy. That’s why they seal the tea packages packages tightly. Once opened, use it soon or reseal it tightly.

Hans will tell you that although they can’t compete with Lipton on quantity, they are better on quality. As an artisan tea, nearly everything is done by hand. So, it takes much longer than the automated processes Lipton and others use.

The Tea House Venue

I know I’m very late on the blog post from our Houston trip last year. (Happy Anniversary to them, yes, it’s been a year.) The trip will be split into two blogs, not just one. There was the wedding of Rafael and Carmen as well as the rest of the trip. I mention that because Fleur de Lis Tea Farm looks very much like the venue where they got married, The Springs of Magnolia. That’s not a bad thing of course. Not everybody wants a large venue. Let’s face it, everything is bigger in Texas, right?

View of the Fleur De Lis Tea House

View from the driver’s seat

As gorgeous as it is, Fleur de Lis Tea Farm is similar in style but smaller, and you won’t mind, either.

Table and chairs outside


Plenty of trees are everywhere, outside of the city, and it is just a beautiful place to be in nature. One difference is the presence of fleur de lis shapes decorating throughout the place, but you knew that, right?

Long view of Fleur De Lis

Lovely, isn’t it?

The land is not as developed as The Springs, like the little bridges over the creeks on the grounds. The whole farm and tea house is as nice as The Springs–and they grow tea there, too.

Inside the tea house, tables and chairs set for tea

Yup. Nice. And set just for us.

Fleur de Lis’ tea house has only been open since July, and only open for events.

Alleyway view on side of tea house

It’s not open every day like PJ’s. The tea house’s capacity is about 50 people, and the place is available for private gatherings like parties, small weddings, corporate events, and of course, tea tours. The farm recently hosted a 1920s-style evening called SpeakTEAsy. I wanted to go, but couldn’t get BF interested.

The Woodwork Part

Remember when I said the owner David Barron has a woodworking shop on the grounds? They do all of the woodwork in the onsite workshop. Much of it is from locally harvested cypress. Take a look at the wood features–and incredible detail–he and his partner, Jessie Marsh, built in the tea house. This little awning–indoors–is reminiscent of the Morning Call in the French Quarter:

A little awning near the kitchen

Cute, yes?

There is a small mezannine upstairs. I thought I got a picture of it, but I didn’t. Here is a wider view of that area:

Wider view of the kitchen area

Very nice. We weren’t invited to go behind the screen and I didn’t ask. I guess it’s a stockroom.

The highly detailed French Quarter mural:

Wallpaper mural of a French Quarter balcony

The feel of the French Quarter

Now, not to harp on this, but this is the door and entrance to the restroom, made from cypress:

Ornate bathroom door with fleur de lis design

And it’s even more elegant inside!

With swirled glass that looks like wood:

Covered glass made to look like wood

It’s totally opaque

See what I mean about the incredible details? Oh, wait, you haven’t seen the best part–the bar:

Tea bar at Fleur De Lis Tea Company

Now that’s a bar!

That’s the very nice Alex, who served us our tea and also answered a few questions.

What’s that blue thing, you ask? Well, it’s a “river bar,” representative of the multitude of rivers that run throughout the Pelican State:

Blue river bar in Tea House

Isn’t that interesting?

The little shells are actual shells that came off the locally and ethically sourced cypress wood from underwater prior to harvesting. They removed the shells, cleaned them, and then added them to the wood before filling and finishing with plenty of epoxy. And in this table off to the side, another one just like it:

Another river bar table

One of the most interesting features of the Tea House

You won’t find that at Wayfair.

Let’s have a drink!

After the oohs and ahhs inside the tea house, we sat at the tables as Hans had more to tell. (Hans’ girlfriend handles their marketing and social media.) The very nice Alex served everyone their signature Friendship Tea tea in beautiful china cups while Hans continued his talk. The tea house was so nicely done for the tour that I felt under-dressed. But it was a walking tour, not a party, and everyone dressed comfortably and casually.

I sat with Debbie, who also attended by herself:

Amy with Debbie at the Tea House

No, I haven’t used the Beautify app on this one.

And I met some nice people.

Hans says, “it’s OK to slurp your tea!” My grandmother would disagree, but she’s not here. I don’t slurp, especially when the tea is rather hot.

The first bit of advice: when making good loose-leaf tea, you shouldn’t use boiling water, only water off the boil. If you boil it, leave it to sit for 30 seconds, or your tea will become bitter. The same happens if you steep it too long. Three to five minutes is tops, and you can steep this tea up to three times. The caffeine is strongest in the first pot and mostly gone by the third.

If you don’t drink it all at once, refrigerate what’s left, or it will mold.

How Was It?

In a word, delicious. It’s not like drinking grocery store tea, that’s for sure. I think I had all three cups from the first steeping.

Tea plain in pink rose china cup and saucer

Very fancy!

Oh, BOY was I feeling good! Hans called it “tea drunk.” Then I had a headache–way too much caffeine, then a drop-off, and on a Saturday morning, too. We all had a great time, and I’m glad I went.

Hans also says that good tea like this is good on its own, without milk, sugar, or lemon (if you’re British.) I had the first few sips fresh from the pot (in my cup). Later, I acquiesced to the habit and added stevia and milk.

Tea in china cup with cream and stevia

It’s OK, I drink it this way all the time.

Two Types

Fleur de Lis’ has only two types of tea, their Friendship Blend and their Big Easy Black Tea, available on their website. I brought home a 5G bag of each.

Fleur De Lis Tea

The ingredients:
Back of tea packets

The shop also has some lovely teapots and other accessories, including the cups and saucers they use.

I haven’t opened either packet of tea since I got home. BF isn’t touching it (if it’s not Coca-Cola, he doesn’t want any.) I’m saving it for a special occasion, I suppose, even though I can get more tea easily. It is pretty strong but very delicious–and nothing like the tea you get at the grocery store. (Sorry, HEB!)

Where should I go next?

I had a great time at Fleur De Lis. If I can drag BF out there, maybe we’ll go for one of their tea house events. The biggest objection is that he doesn’t drink tea. No kidding. He goes into a coffee shop and buys a carton of milk (or Coke) and a pastry. Sometimes, he will go with me to PJ’s, but only if I don’t stay. BF believes “there’s nothing there for me.” It was a stretch when I was out one day while he was at work, and he asked me to bring him a sandwich. So I bought him a nice one from PJ’s since I was in Hammond already.

I’ll look again and see what other places I can find to visit in the area. Fleur De Lis also carries locally grown honey and elderberry products from Cockeyed Farms in Folsom, so that might be my next excursion.

I would like to go to the Tabasco factory again one day and take lots of pictures for the blog. That means BF probably won’t be going with me. . .oh, well. We went to the wedding last year. And I need to do those blogs and publish them.

Until next time,


colander basket of cut zucchini
Zucchini and Suzanne Somers

Zucchini is one of those plants that overloads gardens. I was gifted some recently, and didn’t make zucchini bread. Plus a tribute to the late Suzanne Somers, RIP.

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Hello again, Dear Readers:

It’s been a month, and I apologize. I’ve got several things to tell you, but I’ll have to limit that in this blog.

Finally, fall has arrived, and the temperatures have gone below 100 degrees every day. So far, our highs have been in the mid-80s, but we’ve had some chillier weather than that. It doesn’t last too long, but it’s enough to make us turn the heater at night sometimes.

Following last month’s trip to Trader Joe’s, one of my copywriting clients’ project managers BN told me that she was able to get some of Trader Joe’s coveted pumpkin spice body butter. She lives in coastal Florida, and apparently near a Trader Joe’s that’s not near LSU or other place with college students. I am so jealous! Well, OK, just a little jealous. I am enjoying the body scrub, though.

Much has happened since my last post.

Come and Knock On Our Door. . . .

By now, you’ve heard the sad news that Suzanne Somers has passed away from an aggressive form of breast cancer. She was an actress, author, gourmet cook, health advocate, entrepreneur, and businesswoman. I was a huge fan, and I still am, but did not know the lady personally. Long-time readers know that I have and love all her cookbooks, along with several of her other books. I know there are a few of her books that I don’t have, but I should probably get and read. We don’t have Half Price Books here, so I can’t get them cheap anymore.

She passed one day before her 77th birthday, holding her husband’s hand. Her family was at the house to celebrate her birthday with her. They had a beautiful heart-shaped purple cake made for her with lots of white piping.

Her husband and business partner of more than 50 years, Alan Hamel, and her son, Bruce, along with family members, lit candles and blew them out in a short video posted to Instagram on her birthday (Monday October 16th. ) Just prior to the birthday cake video, Alan and Bruce did a 14-minute interview with Entertainment Tonight about her passing, her legacy, her love of cake, and how they will move forward and keep her legacy going. If you have a few minutes, give it a watch.

The Legacy

Many people only know Suzanne Somers as an actress, primarily as Chrissy Snow from Three’s Company. The show is still in reruns, and there is currently a channel on streaming service Pluto TV that runs the show 24/7. I’ve watched a few of them this week. If you’re interested, you don’t have to register, you can start watching either live TV or on-demand on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop, smart TV, or Roku. (You may be able to watch it on an Amazon Fire Stick, but I don’t know.)

Note: Pluto has plenty of classic TV shows to watch, including a channel of The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. Hint: He’s still funny, especially if you remember the events he’s talking about in his monologue. I haven’t seen one yet where Suzanne Somers is on, but there are three on YouTube, plus a number of more recent clips.

Of course, there were more acting roles later, plus stints in Las Vegas, a Broadway show called The Blonde in the Thunderbird, and most recently, a stint on Dancing With The Stars in 2015. Never mind that she was a headliner in Las Vegas, danced and sang on TV and in USO shows, not to mention the legions of her longtime fans like me who repeat-dial voted for her on the show. She was voted off rather quickly, which I thought was, well, not nice. But her performances are all on YouTube, and her partner on the show, Tony Dovolani, also spoke with ET after she passed.

The Business of Suzanne Somers

Beyond her acting, She was also an author of 27 books, many of them best sellers. The last one I have was her book called Two’s Company, on her 50-plus year long relationship with her husband, Canadian talk show host Alan Hamel. She discusses a wide range of topics related to their relationship, including the business side of being “Suzanne Somers.” It’s truly a family business with nearly everyone involved in some fashion.

Over the years Suzanne sold a wide range of products on her website besides the obvious. For several years she had some lovely violet serving dishes named after her granddaughter Violet. She had small kitchen appliances, including a bread maker, a hand mixer (I still have mine and it works great), an ice cream maker, a small countertop convection rotisserie oven, a stovetop pressure cooker (this was before the Instant Pot) a deep fryer, an ice shaver, and several other things I can’t remember now. They are well-made, of course, but they still remind me of Suzy Homemaker appliances.

The books, the famous (or infamous) Thighmaster (yes, I have one), the 3Way Poncho (I have a few, and they are still available from some vendors as well as resellers eBay and Mercari) and a wide range of food, supplements and other products on her own website, Her products aren’t cheap, but they aren’t rubbish, either. I was a big fan of SomerSweet, but as I wrote about several years ago, that’s gone now, and Swerve can be used in its place.

I’ll be making my birthday cake from Suzanne’s Desserts book this week. Instead of SomerSweet, of course, I’ll be using Swerve. And we’ll have a slice to celebrate the lady who did it all with grace, right up to the end.

The Zucchini

So, last week, BF came home with a bag full of great big zucchini and two crookneck squash, and said, “T says hi.” That’s one of his car guy friends, and apparently knew I would appreciate them. Because BF doesn’t eat anything called squash, including zucchini, spaghetti, or acorn, my favorites, and will let me know about it immediately.

I can only wish I had such an abundance of zucchini that I had to give it away. But I’m happy to accept the wonderful gift of excess from those fortunate enough to have such a nice garden surplus. One of these days, I keep telling BF, we’re going to have a fantastic garden from which we enjoy a great harvest.

Here’s how it ties into the late Suzanne Somers.

Zucchini Ribbons

My first thought was to make some zucchini noodles from Suzanne Somers’ Fast & Easy book (the purple one.) I haven’t made that in a very long time, and it’s simple. Cut the ends off the zucchini, then use a vegetable peeler to make long, thin ribbons. When you get too far in to keep using the peeler, just thinly slice the remainder with a sharp knife on a cutting board until you’re done. Cook in a skillet with a little olive oil, salt and pepper until they’re just done. Delicious.

You can cook as many zucchinis this way as you like at once. Eat them as is, or add them to any kind of pasta sauce you like. Fast & Easy was published before the veggie noodle makers became popular, and in a later book she uses zucchini “noodles” made from her own Su-Chef appliance. It wasn’t available for long, apparently, and it isn’t even available on eBay or Mercari, but I did find a picture.

I Thought About Her

As I took the book off the shelf, I wondered how Suzanne was doing. I remembered that she’d been ill again, but I was sure she would be getting better. Is she writing a new book? There probably won’t be any more cookbooks, I thought, but an important topic, for sure. But I knew it would be an interesting subject, well-researched and well-written, like Tox-Sick. Admittedly, I didn’t get her last book but will source it for my shelves soon.

The next day, BF sent me a message on Facebook Messenger that she’d passed away, one day before her 77th birthday. The breast cancer she’d been fighting for more than 20 years finally overtook her.

The next night, I made a Cappuccino Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake from Get Skinny on Fabulous Food, page 246.

For breakfast one day last week, I made some of Alan’s Fried Eggs In Onion Nests on page 115 for us to enjoy with breakfast. Hint: open the windows and turn on your exhaust fan before you get started cooking the onions.

I also want to purchase Served By Caroline Somers, Suzanne’s daughter-in-law, chief chef, and right-hand-gal in the business for thirty-plus years. Her stepdaughter, Leslie Hamel, is a fashion designer who designed the 3Way Poncho, as well as hundreds of Suzanne’s red-carpet items and many pieces of her clothing lines. I own a few 3Way Ponchos and made some from a Simplicity pattern published shortly after the released. There’s some fabric in my stash that will be perfect to make a couple more.

The Rest: Zucchini Sotolio

I only cooked that one zucchini on Saturday night, because I had a plan for the rest of them. I’ve done this before, but just never quite got around to posting the recipe. This recipe is *not* from Suzanne Somers, but from TV chef Giada de Laurentiis. It’s on page 226 of Giada’s Italy: My Recipes For La Dolce Vita, called Zucchini Sotolio. It’s not difficult, and it’s a great way to make those garden extras last a bit longer.

First, you cut the zucchini into 1/3” rounds. Drop them in the colander, sprinkle salt over them, and let them sit for ten minutes.

colander basket of cut zucchini

There were a couple of yellow zucchini in the bag.

But because I was sitting with BF, it ended up more like 30 minutes. But the salt seasons them nicely.

While that’s going on, boil up 1½ cups of water and 1½ cups of apple cider vinegar in a big pot.

Now, open up a window, (or turn on the exhaust fan) because it’s going to smell in your kitchen and your house if you don’t. Trust me on this, I speak from experience here. Especially with someone around like BF who can’t stand the smell of vinegar at all.

Add in your sliced zucchini and turn the heat down to a simmer:

Sliced zucchini in cooking pot

Yes, there were some yellow ones, and they tasted the same.

Cook the slices for about five minutes, until they’re cooked but not mushy and overdone.

zucchini cooking in pot

If you have as much as I was given, you’ll need to cook them in batches.

Two batches of zucchini

Then take them out:

Removing Zucchini from cooking pot and adding into bowl

And put them into a bowl.

Zucchini cooling in bowl

You may find they’re still kind of watery, so you might want to drain that off too. Add in the mint leaves, basil leaves, chopped garlic:

Adding chopped aromatics into bowl

And a tablespoon more of apple cider vinegar:

Adding ACV to bowl

Toss the zucchini to mix in the rest of the ingredients. Leave them to cool for a little while.

And here comes the fun part: cover them with olive oil:

Coating zucchini with olive oil

The recipe calls for extra-virgin olive oil, but I didn’t have enough. So, I just used regular olive oil.

When you have enough oil, pack them in jars or just store them in the fridge in a tightly sealed container:

Packing zucchini into a container

This is a container I like to use for the freezer, with a rubber gasket in the lid and snapping closure tabs.

Zucchini in storage container

This delicious recipe will stay in your fridge for about three weeks. Serve them at room temperature. Giada says that having a jar or two of this around means you’ll always have a “quick side.” It’s also good as a starter or part of an antipasto spread. Got eggplant? It works here too, just grill the eggplant first. (No, I still hate eggplant.)

Here’s the recipe if this looks like something you’d like to try soon.

Zucchini in storage container

Zucchini Sottolio

From Giada's Italy, page 226. This recipe has bold, tangy flavors that make the zucchini really shine.
Course Appetizer, Condiment, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 5 cups


  • pounds zucchini sliced into ⅓ inch rounds (about 3 small zucchini)
  • tsp kosher salt
  • cups apple cider vinegar plus one tablespoon for the end
  • 10 fresh mint leaves
  • 10 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (Amy's note: optional)
  • 2 to 3 cups extra-virgin olive oil (Amy's note: I used regular this time)


  • Place the sliced zucchini in a colander that is set over a bowl. Sprinkle with the salt and toss well to combine. Allow the zucchini to sit for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine 1½ cups of water with 1½ cups of apple cider vinegar and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the salted zucchini to the pot and return the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the zucchini is cooked through but still has a little texture. Drain the zucchini and place it in a large bowl.
  • Add the remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar, the mint, basil, garlic and red pepper flakes to the zucchini, and toss well. Add enough olive oil to cover the zucchini and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Pack the zucchini in jars or a storage container with a tight-fitting lid, making sure the zucchini is fully covered with the oil. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Serve at room temperature.
Keyword zucchini, olive oil,

Fancy another cuppa?

I’ve got another tea blog coming, but I’m not saying anything just yet. But it will be interesting—and very strong.





Trader Joe's outside in Baton Rouge
Trader Joe’s Friday

Last week, I made it a Trader Joe’s Friday. Take a ride with me.

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Hello again, Dear readers:

I know, it’s been a minute, but I do have an adventure to tell you about, plus a couple of other news items that have surprised the heck out of me.

Saturday was a Tractor Supply visit for pet supplies. It was also an adoption day, and I almost brought home a new kitty:

Grey kitten in kennel

Such a sweet little kitten.

There’s nothing wrong with the old ones. But I knew what kind of trouble I’d face if I did. Make no mistake—this Catmandu kitty was $22 to adopt. But I just knew it would be bad for that beautiful little furball if I did. The poor thing wouldn’t stand a chance around Tab E. Cat and Tiger Cat. I hate leaving this one behind but I did.

Let’s get started.

Two News Items

These two news items come from Fast Company, a tech magazine that I follow on LinkedIn.

For a few years now, you’ve probably seen those commercials for company called Daily Harvest. This company aims its advertising at millennials who want to eat better and easier. From what I’ve seen, it’s frozen vegetarian food as different forms of meals that make it convenient and easy to eat healthier. At least, that’s how they’re advertising their products. They’re not cheap, either—each meal runs between $6 and $10, for one. They also have some coffee pods that come in two to a package.

The Daily Harvest Debacle

Back in June, the magazine reported on a story about Daily Harvest’s lentil and leek crumbles that made quite a few people very sick. Although these people were young and healthy, nearly 400 of them became ill from this meat-substitute blend. The problem was an ingredient called “tara flour” added as a plant-based protein. Tara flour is rarely used in the US and was not tested for safety before this product was rolled out.

The FDA has not yet evaluated tara flour to be “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS, but it’s not used much here, either. It only became available in the last year or so. Most of the people sickened by this product developed gallbladder and liver problems. Of those, 133 went to the hospital for surgical procedures, with 25 of those being gallbladder removal. The company promises to do better, but lawsuits could bankrupt the company. They’re working with the FDA, and the crumbles have been recalled. We’ll see how this plays out. Their products are available in some grocery stores, but not in my area.

If you see a food product with “tara flour” in its ingredient list, drop it. There is also something called “tara gum” that’s used as a thickener, but apparently it’s not the same thing.

Beyond Impossible Meat

The second article is about the imminent demise of the plant-based meat industry–again. These reports have happened a few times, claiming that this fake meat is on its way out, but they’re still around and haven’t gone yet.

Honestly, who’s buying this stuff? I see it in the grocery stores all the time, but I don’t see anybody buying any. That may be different in a place like Houston, Dallas, New York, or anywhere in California. But the truth is, much of America is not eating plant-based meat. If they do, it’s once and they realize why real meat is better. There’s plenty of it available, but nobody’s buying it up like ground beef.

Because I even found some in Dirt Cheap this weekend:

Boxes of Beyond Meat Snacks

When they’re here, they’re at the last stop

The ingredient list:

Beyond Meat ingredient list

That’s intended to replace meat. Seriously? No. That’s a lot of processing to make it look and taste something like meat. I’m sure Spam tastes better.

It’s like that picture that emerged during Hurricane Harvey of an HEB refrigerated case, that was emptied of everything but the soy-based vegetarian food products. No self-respecting Texan is going to eat tofu or fake meat, even in an emergency. Looks like there was more anticipation than actual demand for alt-meat, and the industry isn’t as strong as the cattle industry.

Do you know why it’s called “Impossible?” Because it’s impossible to get normal people to eat that stuff. Bonus: alt-meat is not healthier than meat. The article goes on about “planet friendly,” “saving the planet,” and “climate change,” showing its intentional bias. Even though there are some folks who buy the stuff, alt-meat isn’t universally wanted. I don’t know anyone who wants it, either.

Aldi, Aldi, Everywhere!

I only just discovered that Germany-based grocer Aldi has bought one of the south’s stalwart stores, Winn-Dixie. No kidding—they just remodeled ours in the last year, and now they may change it over to Aldi.

Honest—somehow, I did not get this news, our friend MY told us in a phone conversation last week. How did BF know about this but not say anything to me? I thought she was kidding when she told us, but she wasn’t.

The modern world comes to rural Louisiana, whether they want it or not. No word on how many stores will stay branded as Winn-Dixie and how many will change to Aldi. But Aldi’s stores are much smaller than the average Winn-Dixie, so they’ll make those decisions once the merger is complete.

We got a letter just today from our local Winn-Dixie informing us that our local Winn-Dixie pharmacy closed last week. I hadn’t heard about that part either. Aldi doesn’t do pharmacy, and its core competency is grocery, so the pharmacy component wasn’t part of the deal. Now, Winn-Dixie is transferring everything to CVS and Walgreens and closing their pharmacies ahead of the merger. Here, the transfers are to the local Walgreens. The Hammond Winn-Dixie has a CVS nearby.

I did notice some conversation in the pharmacy area when I was shopping there last week but didn’t think too much of it. So, in the store that was only renovated a few months ago, there will be an empty space where the pharmacy was. Wonder what they’ll do with it once it’s all cleared out.

Bankruptcy Relief

Southeastern Grocers is thankful since they’ve been limping along for many years now and remarkably close to bankruptcy. I haven’t seen too much on the topic, although it was just a quick search that yielded articles that said much the same thing.

This may also impact Rouses, Louisiana’s “premier” grocery chain. It’s the closest thing you’ll find to HEB this side of the Sabine. If Aldi does move into Hammond, there will be some VERY serious competition.

Of course, in a text message later, MY responded, “How about you work on getting us an HEB?” Well, I’ll see what I can do, but they tried it once in Lake Charles. The gent in the Texas Welcome Center in Orange said, “There was some kind of Louisiana regulation and they had to close.” There’s always some kind of Louisiana regulation to bungle up anything. That’s why there’s no Buc-ee’s here, and there likely won’t be, even though it was announced a few years ago.

Maybe Trader Joe’s will make the trip up this way next. New Orleans has one, and so does Memphis, TN, which also has an IKEA. Hammond would be a great place for Trader Joe’s, especially with Southeastern Louisiana University around. I sent them an email suggesting Hammond, and the autoresponder message I got back said:

Thank you for your interest in a Trader Joe’s store – it matters to us. We’ve received your request and will share it with our real estate team for consideration.

 If you have other comments or questions you’d like addressed, please submit them through our general feedback form at:

Thank you.

But folks in Mandeville and Covington have been wanting and praying for a Trader Joe’s there for years. Not happening, and I know that from the company directly.

My Trader Joe’s Friday

Last week, I decided I wanted to go to Trader Joe’s in Baton Rouge. See, They’ve got new fall and pumpkin stuff all over the place, and I was out to get some to bring back.

I found out that they have a new pumpkin body butter that I wanted to try. BF, on the other hand, did not want me to go anywhere near anything that smelled like pumpkin or pumpkin spice, But he was not going to stop me.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pumpkin body butter, because they sold it all on the first day. Like the Brazil Nut Body Butter that BF really likes, there’s plenty of it available on eBay and Amazon—for a premium price. That’s what happens when you put a Trader Joe’s near LSU. Fortunately, I did score some of the pumpkin body scrub.

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Body Scrub

If you score some, you’ll definitely enjoy it

It smells nice and warm, and I must hide it, so BF doesn’t throw it away.

I put the pumpkin spice gluten-free bagels into the freezer right away, too.

Gluten Free baked goods


I had one already, toasted with butter, and it was pretty darn good. The canned pumpkin will go into the pantry for Iced Pumpkin Spiced Lattes and homemade dog treats.

Non-pumpkin purchases included two packages of Texas Tamales:

Because they are less than Rouse’s. And one of these little totes, with a full-sized nylon grocery bag inside.

Tiny Trader Joe's shopping bags

Aren’t they cute?

Keep it in your bag, car, or pocket, and you’ll have a reusable shopping bag handy. The small tote is good for keeping small items corralled like loose change.

The Store Visit

I saw lots of pumpkins:

Pumkins in front of Trader Joe's

Look at them all!

And these new bags for fall:

Racks of yellow cold bags from Trader Joe's

I didn’t get one, maybe next time.

This nice lady was sampling:

Sampling lady named India

This nice lady’s name is India, and she was sampling some lovely granola and yogurt.

Plus a wide range of new and familiar delicious things:

And this:

Salted Maple Ice Cream

I wanted to but it would not have lasted the trip home in the heat.

The samosas next to them are probably pretty good, but you know what would happen if I brought a box home? “She’s tryin’ ta kill me!” Same with this one:

Danish Pumpkin Caramel Kringle

Interesting, no?

Delicata Squash:

Delicata squash at Trader Joe's

He won’t eat that, either.

I bought a small one and will put it in the air fryer. I saw DaniMade Kitchen do that the other day on Instagram, and it’s really simple. Slice off the ends, then in half lengthwise, don’t peel, remove the seeds, slice into half-rounds, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper (or whatever seasoning you like), and air fry at 400F for 10 minutes, or 20 minutes in the oven. Dani also adds a fresh herb like thyme into the mix. Yeah, that’s for me when BF is not home.

BF won’t eat anything remotely related to pumpkin, like this:

Pumpkin Spice bars at Trader Joe's

That would not go over well. Next to his strawberry bars.

Or this:

Cinnamon roll & Blondie Bars at Trader Joe's

Even though they’re not pumpkin

I did pick up a box of this tea last time I was there but haven’t opened it yet:

Trader Joe's English Breakfast Tea

They may be unwrapped, too.

I hope it’s as good as HEB’s English Breakfast Tea.

The Frozen Foods

In addition to our favorite Texas Tamales, Trader Joe’s has some other interesting frozen foods in their cases:

Frozen Foods at Trader Joe's

Pumpkin ice cream, and waffles? Sounds good but no for BF.

Don’t forget the scones and cheesecake:

At least Trader Joe’s appreciates Hatch chiles:

Hatch chile salsa at Trader Joe's

Hatch chile salsa and frozen tacos–perfect!

Gluten-free pie shells? I almost bought some.

Gluten free pie shells at Trader Joe's

This could be the start of something delicious!

One day I’ll try this, too, if it’s gluten-free.

Trader Joe's Mandarin Chicken

A fan favorite, but we’ve never had it.

Still, BF doesn’t mind that I go, and says the same thing: “It’s just a grocery store.”

Trader Joe’s List

If you’re not familiar with Instagram, there are several bloggers and brands that hang out there. The main reason I got on Instagram was to follow. Jen Fisher of Keto in the City, Mimi G, and a couple of others I like. I also follow multiple brands on Instagram, and as you know, I’ve won twice this year from Instagram giveaways.

Another blogger that I discovered is a lady named Natasha Fisher who has a blog and an Instagram channel called Trader Joe’s List. She lives in California and has a Trader Joe’s nearby. So once a week, and sometimes more, she goes to Trader Joe’s, does some grocery shopping, and then does a video about what she bought. She does the videos in her own kitchen.

Natasha and her partner Simon recently went to Phoenix for a few weeks for his job, so she just took her Trader Joe’s trip there. They stayed in an Airbnb, she was still cooking like she was at home.

I try to catch Natasha’s videos whenever she posts a new one. Sometimes she even does them live, but I don’t always catch those. But she talks about a lot of different TJ’s things in the videos that I’m interested in trying. Natasha is not affiliated with Trader Joe’s, she’s simply a happy shopper with a blog.

It was Natasha’s video that showed me the Pumpkin Body Butter that I wanted to try. Oh, well. At least I got the Brazil Nut Body Butter before it sold out.

Making My Own Video

On the way back from Baton Rouge, I got the idea to make my own video, just like Natasha’s. I’m not trying to compete or “steal her thunder,” of course. It was just for fun. I did mine in one take and uploaded it to Instagram. But for those of you not on Instagram, I uploaded it to YouTube so you can see it there.

If you watch it, please do not expect my video to be as good as Natasha’s. I’m not a professional and the intent was just to have a little fun on my own. BF is not in the video but does get a few mentions. (If you listen close you can hear the TV blaring in the other room because he couldn’t help himself.) But if you like Trader Joe’s, I highly suggest checking out her website. If you’re on Instagram, follow Natasha so you can see her videos in your feed when she posts them.

Next Up: Aldi

The littlest grocery store has done very well in recent months because of their well-priced basic offerings. So, it’s no wonder that they keep expanding, especially in the South.

I’m planning to visit the Aldi in McComb, Mississippi this week to do a little stocking up (and to get out of the house for a while.) BF doesn’t mind, since I’m not doing anything wrong, and he likes many of the new things I bring home. Unless, of course, they’re pumpkin-spiced. I try to bring back nice things that he wouldn’t ordinarily buy or something that wouldn’t ordinarily cross his path. He’s still a fan of Jammie Dodgers.

I’ve got one recipe to try out for an upcoming blog post, and hopefully, it will be worth the wait. Until then. . . .

Happy Dining!


Welcome To Texas Sign
A Quick Texas Visit

I made a quick trip to Texas this week. Don’t worry, I went home to BF with some tasty things.

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Hello Again, Dear Readers:

“Texas is calling, and I must go.”

It’s been a month since my last blog, and a lot has happened. It hasn’t escaped anyone’s attention that this summer has been incredibly hot and dry, more so than usual, especially in Texas and Louisiana. They weren’t kidding in June when they said that the weather in Texas was just “pre-heating.” We haven’t had rain in at least six or eight weeks, and the grass is now very dry and brown. The plants are watered twice daily.

Although I’ve spoken to Miss Alice several times, I’ve not seen her since she was here in July. But that’s OK, we hope she comes back, or we hope to have the opportunity to go visit. She and her teenage daughter are now happily living in Kemah, Texas, where they lived before I moved out of Clear Lake. It’s a little bohemian place off the beaten path, and really close to the beach. Miss Alice is starting a new job soon but has had a couple of obstacles.  Please send her healing thoughts, she’s in pain right now from a broken foot.

The Return Of Tomatoes

A couple of weeks ago, I was telling Miss Alice that my big tomato plant had been decimated by a little green worm, called a Tomato Hornworm. It’s virtually invisible unless you’re looking for it or it’s decimated your plants to the point where it’s easily seen. She suggested planting basil in the same place as the tomatoes. So, I dug up two rootlings from the last batch of cut basil and one each near the two tomato plants. Haven’t seen a hornworm since, so I hope that did the trick. I knew this tip from the long-ago gardening lectures at the Freeman Library, and totally forgot. Next spring, I’m putting basil with the tomato plants in the same pots for sure, along with an additional basil-only bucket.

I do recall being told that once tomato plants finish their initial tomato harvest, they kind of go dormant and start producing again later in the summer. Well, what do you know? Small flowers have begun to appear in several places on the big plant, and tomatoes are starting to grow again.

Small tomatoes growing

Look! They’re back!

Even the yellow teardrop plant is finally getting the beginnings of tiny tomatoes. This plant never produced anything but leaves this summer, some of which were consumed by the hornworms until we removed them.

Tiny tomato growth on bud

They’re tiny, but they’re there. There’s a poblano pepper down further, blurred.

My peppers and onions are doing fine, as is the sage. After a batch of pesto, the basil “tree” is growing more leaves too. I’m hopeful for one more batch of pesto before chilly weather arrives in late October or early November. I’ve made only one batch this year. Never mind that I have little square containers of pesto dating back to 2018 in the freezer, with most from 2019 forward. Because I want to make more pesto!

I forgot to take a picture, but Aunt Ruth gave us a clipping from her hummingbird plant when we visited last year. It stayed in the water bottle that we brought it home in, keeping the water topped up while it began to root. Earlier this year I planted it in a pot, and now it’s all green leaves. Next question: Where are we going to put it so it can grow bigger? I guess we’ll figure that out next spring.

PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) Season Returns, Too

One of Starbucks’ most beloved and culturally significant offerings is back in its 20th year. Yes, the Pumpkin Spice Latte turns 20 this year, and shows no signs of slowing down.


PSL Promo pic

Source: Starbucks website.

Of course, there are also pumpkin spice jokes and memes, which are funny too. Devotees can’t wait for their fall favorite, even in 100-degree heat. (I still haven’t made any more ice cream, despite my intent.)

KC, a copywriting colleague in the Austin, TX area, is an unabashedly devoted fan of this fall favorite and tells everyone on Facebook. No harm in that. She posted the other day that she likes a cold brew version and not the bottled one that’s all sugar. So I dropped this on her comment, a DIY version from the blog Gimme Some Oven that’s quick and easy without the sugar/chemical syrup Starbucks uses in their version.

I made it this morning, with a tablespoon of real pumpkin, and it really is delicious.


Iced pumpkin spiced latte in blender jar

The real thing, but no whipped cream this time.

I offered BF a taste and he rudely rejected that suggestion. It actually filled the blender cup and I’d gulped half before I decided to take a picture. Used half-and-half because that’s what I had in the fridge. And I added a dropper more of stevia to add a little more sweetness. Perfect for what we call “fall” on the Gulf Coast. 

I’ve only had the “real” Starbucks PSL once in my life, and that was enough. But this version is tasty so I’ll be enjoying this until it gets colder and I find a hot version. I have some organic canned pumpkin in the pantry as well as some in the freezer from the last time I made doggie treats, and the rest of the ingredients I already have. With cold-brew coffee already in the fridge, it was fast. The small smoothie blender handled the job easily. 

Also from Gimme Some Oven, I made this Mango Lentil Salad for dinner tonight since BF is working late. Since it’s Friday, I added some shrimp. When I described the salad to BF, he began his retching noises again. Make this salad, it’s wonderful, and double the dressing.

Don’t like coffee? Here’s a recipe for pumpkin spice crème Brule!

The Trip To Orange, Texas

This week I had to go take a ride to take care of some personal business in Texas. The closest place to handle this is Orange, Texas, the first city you come to when you cross the Sabine River.

Welcome To Texas Sign

One of the best things I saw all day.

Of course, I stopped at the Texas Travel Information Center, right past the off-ramp, where I collected some wonderful information about places to visit.

Texas Welcome Center, Orange TX

I love this place!


One lady gave me a lovely poster, which I plan to frame soon.

The business? Renewal of my Texas driver’s license. Don’t ask.

Naturally, I had a bit of anxiety about this trip, and I wished BF would go with me. Unfortunately, he had to work. Everything was by appointment, and, well, he didn’t want to go anyway. But everything was fine. The ladies in that office are very nice and very helpful. The DPS system was rather slow, and they had to take a dozen pictures because the system kept tossing them out.

I got a haircut the day before, which was a bit of a mistake. I had hair down to the middle of my back, and asked for it to be cut to mid-shoulderblades. This is what happened:

Last time I had hair this short I worked at Boeing. It’ll grow back in a year, I guess. No more Supercuts for me. 

Patience, of course, and they were doing what they could to make it easier. I did ask to use the previous picture, taken in 2011, which wasn’t a bad image, but they had to take a new one. I even offered my latest Facebook photo, but they said, no way, they can’t. Oh, well. Hopefully, my picture will never be seen by anyone, ever. For the first time, I began to think about getting Botox.

HEB In Orange

It did not escape my attention that HEB has a location in Orange on the same state highway as the DPS office. It’s a smaller neighborhood store, and not as big or fancy as the ones in Clear Lake.

HEB Store in Orange, TX

Another wonderful sight.

But they even had a small selection of sushi! Once I was finished renewing my Texas driver’s license, complete with the required god-awful picture, I made my way to HEB. There is a Starbucks a block or two away from HEB, right off I-10, but I didn’t stop there.

After the small but stocked produce area, I turn a corner and see this:

Hispanic grocery section in HEB in Orange, Texas

Not quite Los Primos, but close.

Look at all those delicious Hispanic goods! More rows of wonderful things:

Rows of canned goods in HEB

Soup, anyone?

Now get this:

Four pound can of tuna at HEB in Orange, Texas

The biggest can of tuna I have ever seen.

Have you ever seen a can of tuna that big? Me either, but HEB in Orange had them. I guess they’re for the church ladies making a BIG pile of tuna fish sandwiches for Sunday after church. (No, Aunt Ruth, that wasn’t a diss, honest!) Even BF was surprised, and he likes tuna. No, it did not come home with me.

Mostly what I bought was foodstuffs I would buy at Walmart, Rouse’s or Winn-Dixie. But because Here, Everything’s Better, well, they are. BF enjoyed the Spirals Macaroni & Cheese (it was 88 cents a box when I bought it), and it does taste better than what we get here.

I also bought two beautiful shopping bags at the register:

Texas flag bag


Texas map bag

See this gorgeous detail?

Even though I brought in my own, which included a couple from prior HEB trips, I bought these. BF and I went to Walmart the next night, and I told him we should take those bags in for our shopping to show our Texas pride. He got a look on his face that I don’t see too often.

By the time I reached Baton Rouge, about 7 p.m., Trader Joe’s was still open. I don’t get to Baton Rouge often, so when in Rome. . .I stopped in and picked up a few things. Also got some milk for BF, and some of their TJ’s tamales for dinner the next night. The beef tamales were good, but he didn’t like the cheese & green chile ones. My fault, because I thought I’d grabbed chicken.

Hatch Chile Season

Anyone in Texas who shops at HEB knows that they are big on Hatch chiles, especially this time of year when they’re available fresh from New Mexico. With good reason, because they’re wonderful. Rouses not so much, and I haven’t been there in a while. Our local Winn-Dixie hasn’t had any this year, so I guess they gave it up after last year. I didn’t even try this time, although Rouse’s has pickled Hatch chiles in a jar.

I was hungry after my DPS appointment, and I did go shopping on an empty stomach. But I wasn’t hungry enough to have fish bait, I mean, sushi. What I did find was this:


Yup—Hatch Chile Cheese! It was the only perishable thing I bought, and I enjoyed half the package after filling up the tank for the trip home. I was planning to stop at the Cracker Barrel in Sulfur, Louisiana, which was 30 minutes east, but I really needed something fast. Trust me when I tell you that cheese really hit the spot. I ate about half the package and the rest made it back to the Casa de Rurale. I posted a picture on Facebook, and Boeing brother DK suggested trying the much hotter Carolina Reaper cheese, too. The next trip could be soon, I told myself.

Despite being in a hot vehicle for a little while, the cheese made it home just fine. The rest was enjoyed later in between corn tortillas as part of a quesadilla along with some grated “Taco Blend” cheese we had in the fridge. No, BF wouldn’t touch the Hatch Chili cheese, even though it’s mild.

I also bought more limes (4 for $1, I bought 16) and a beautiful pineapple:

A pineapple on a cutting board from HEB.

Isn’t it beautiful?

It was ripe and ready for cutting, and after slicing the whole thing. . .I put it into the dehydrator that night.

Mindy Lu’s Pies

I’ve written about local New Orleans favorite Hubig’s Pies many times, and they are now available again, somewhere. I’ve not seen them myself, but I don’t go looking for them, either. BF says he’s seen them and had one, and The E Man has had several, which taste exactly as they are remembered. That’s good.

Well, I wasn’t thinking about Hubig’s while in HEB, until I came across this:

Mindy Lu’s pies are made in Arlington, TX, up near Dallas. In 18 years of living in Houston, I never noticed these. Maybe they’re local to Arlington, and are just branching out to the rest of Texas. Had I any idea, I would have bought a few more for him.


There were several flavors, and I swear I saw a strawberry cheesecake version. But just to be safe, I bought an apple hand pie. (BF has since asked me to get strawberry things instead of apple, and I almost got strawberry. Wish I’d called him first.) They were on an end cap by the frozen section, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I put it in the console of the truck to keep it from getting damaged on the trip home.

BF enjoyed his little dessert just the same, and he gave me the last little bite.


Yup—good stuff, real Texas. Next time, I’ll get strawberry and chocolate pies if they have them.

A Little Conversation

While I was looking at absolutely everything HEB, a young woman shopping in the same aisle asked me if I could help her find lemon zest. No kidding, she didn’t know what it was. This young African-American lady was about 25 or so and said she was trying to cook healthier for herself. Nothing wrong with that, but she didn’t know what lemon zest was.

She said she was getting these recipes from the Tasty app. Tasty has an app? Yup, and one thing she was interested in making was this maple-soy glazed salmon recipe. She got the maple syrup, the soy sauce, and the salmon, but just didn’t know what lemon zest was. I was happy to help and explain it to her. She said, “you mean all I have to do is get a lemon?” Yup. We were standing by the small section of kitchen tools, but this HEB didn’t have a fine grater. So I pulled up Walmart’s app and showed her the fine side of a box grater that she needed to use.

Once I got a look at the recipe, I explained that the maple syrup provided the sweetness, the soy sauce provided the saltiness (and maybe a little “umami” ), and the lemon zest added some freshness. Then it made sense to her.

I’m sure she didn’t think it was a big deal, but it was a big deal to me. I was glad she asked me and happy to help. And the reason it’s such a big deal is because that kind of casual discourse doesn’t really happen here. It’s the “culture shock” that I will probably never “get over.” She wasn’t rude, pushy, or anything, just genuinely curious. I guess I was in the right place at the right time to help. That made my day.

Wish I’d got her name, you know?

When Are You Going Back?

Don’t tempt me!

From here to the Orange HEB is about 3 hours and 45 minutes. That’s a long way to go for grocery shopping! But as a day trip, well, it’s doable, right? BF doesn’t mind, and he knows I’m not doing anything bad or illegal, even if he thinks it’s a bit bonkers. I’d need to fill the tank once in each direction, which is probably the most expensive part, other than the actual shopping. And we must account for Broccoli Stirfry, the anxiety-ridden “guard” dog.

But it wouldn’t be a bad thing to occasionally buzz out there for a day trip and do a big stock-up on pantry staples, just to go out for a while. It would be much the same as heading north to Aldi’s in McComb, MS, although a bit farther west. Port Arthur’s HEB is a bit past Orange, and Beaumont has an HEB Plus with a wider range of products and services that’s just a little farther down I-10 than Orange. If I can do a “big grocery trip,” a drive to Texas isn’t such a bad idea for a day out. Hopefully, the weather will be cooler when I make that trip.

As soon as we can get the pantry in a better state than it’s in now. Four plank shelves only hold so much, and the wasted space is, well, wasted.

Anyway. . .until next time, Enjoy!

Horse with his head sticking out of a horse trailer
The Catchup Post

Hi, Again, Dear Readers:

Well, it’s happened again: an unintentional and accidental hiatus, hence a catchup post. I was doing good but became OBE, or overwhelmed by events. My apologies. I had some new work from new clients and just got swamped. It’s a long one, so settle in with a cuppa before you begin reading.

BF has had to step up and make dinner more than once, and we’ve had frozen pizzas too. I’m way overdue for last year’s wedding trip posts, as well as a few others. I have a couple of posts that are in progress as well.

I’d love to say we won the lottery. Well, we have, and winning $4 with both the PowerBall and MegaMillions drawings is a confidence booster. If we won the bigger pots, we’d be new anonymous people overnight.

This blog site has some issues going on too, and I need to get Raf to help me fix those. If you’ve signed up for emails, that’s one of the issues I can’t seem to fix. The other is the missing table of contents that I can’t seem to get back in place—none of the seven plugins seem to work. Plus, we have a couple of business things to start on both my side and his, and Carmen may be involved.

This is the catchup that I’ve been writing here and there for a while.

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Artificial Intelligence In Everyday Life

So if you haven’t caught the AI bug yet, here’s one good use of it: keeping ice cream in stock.

No kidding, the Unilever company owns over 3 million freezers worldwide and they’re adding little cameras to each one of them to make sure the ice cream never runs out. From the article:

“The camera fitted inside our cabinet takes a photo periodically, sends it into the cloud, and it’s analyzed using AI to let shopkeepers know what to restock and submit orders in a frictionless way,” explains Berty Jacob, an R&D cold chain specialist with Unilever, in a blog post.

They’re also adding this exclusive technology <cough, cough> to vending machines and their supply chain, too.

What’s next—AI-enabled slow cookers and Instant Pots? I don’t put it past anyone, really, after they started with the Wi-Fi-connected slow cookers. “Alexa, turn on the CrockPot on low heat for seven hours.” Big no from me, and BF concurs.

If you say, “Alexa” around this little cabin in the woods, you’ll be talking to yourself. Not having that here. ChatGPT is a tool, nothing more, and if you use it, be cautious of copyright infringement.  

Around The Casa de Rurale—The Visitor From Texas

Two weekends ago, we had a surprise visit from Miss Alice! We expected her this week following a road trip to Florida with her daughter. The plans changed, her daughter flew to Austin, and Miss Alice ended up spending a weekend with us with just B-Dog, a half Chihuahua/half Dachshund.

Alice and B-Dog sitting on the futon

They made it!!

We were very glad to see Miss Alice, and hopefully, we didn’t scare her (much.)

Broccoli Stirfry enjoyed meeting B-Dog and had a great time once they got past the uneasy initial meeting. The cats weren’t thrilled with this little yapper and stayed clear. B-Dog quickly figured out how to climb up the couch to get to the cat food. I had to make sure not to step on him.

When she gave me a future date for her visit, I was thinking about what I might make for dinner. What I was considering was a meal I made for BF a while back from Emilie Bailey’s Easy Dirty Keto; Miss Alice also owns a copy. The dinner with the BBQ chicken, deep-fried Brussels sprouts, and maybe the chocolate-mint whipped topping dessert was top of mind.


He took to Titan’s favorite cushion quickly.

Well, that’s not what we had, but there was chicken, and last year’s mint & parsley pesto was also brought out from the freezer. Oh, and some quinoa, too. Plus, I picked and cooked the only three little Shishito peppers for Miss Alice. That went well, especially since BF worked late that evening.

Dinner plate with a salad bowl, chicken and pesto and quinoa

Not bad for a quick throw-together. She enjoyed everything, including the peppers.

And that little salad was from the garden, but that’s all the lettuce and tomatoes that were ready to eat. No matter, it was tasty with a light vinaigrette of EVOO and fig-infused vinegar. Just enough for two small salads.

While Miss Alice took a nap, I went out and got her more of the PJ’s K-Cups she likes. Winn-Dixie had Pumpkin Spice on sale, so I got her a box of those too. Once she got under the magic Snap-On blanket, she was out like a light.

Saturday Shopping And Catchup

BF worked the day shift on Saturday, made our breakfast, and also made dinner, his favorite jambalaya (from a locally produced mix) on Saturday night. We all enjoyed that plus some good conversation. During the day I took Miss Alice to our local Tractor Supply and Dirt Cheap. It was kind of an on-the-fly thing, and she found some lovely things for her new place. I also wanted her to see the great pet stuff at Tractor Supply for B-Dog.

Turns out there is a Dirt Cheap in Pasadena, TX, and a Tractor Supply within 5 miles of her new apartment, where you may run into friends like these:

Horse with his head sticking out of a horse trailer

He was noisy! I didn’t get close enough to pet him, though.

Also told her about Ollie’s Bargain Center, one of which is now open on El Dorado Blvd, not far from El Dorado Trace. They do seem to have a big selection of K-Cup coffees for a good price, and I figured she’d want to know about that. Neighbor E has recently paid them a visit, too.

BF took care of her oil change and changed the air filter on her car after dinner. He had to be to work early, and Miss Alice left early Sunday morning not long after BF did. During the trip home, Miss Alice got some RaceTrac coffee around Lafayette, arriving home safely around noon. We were so busy with our catchup that we didn’t get to take any selfies. Fortunately, she’s been able to make it to the beach since she’s been home before school and work starts up again soon. We anxiously await her return visit.

Illness And Injury

Back in February, we got sick again, with my convalescence spanning two weeks and requiring an inhaler for bronchitis. BF got over it quickly, but my sore throat moved down into my lungs. I thought I’d never quit coughing.

But while BF recovered from the sore throat, he managed to get a bit of metal from a brush grater stuck under the skin on the back of his right hand. It hurt like any splinter, but of course, it was also rusty. It began swelling badly and hurt him when the infection took hold.

I’m not putting any pictures of that awfulness up for you to see.

The full treatment took two trips to the local urgent care center and one to a local emergency room, along with antibiotics, minor surgery, a tetanus shot, and a couple of sick days from work. Then he had to put large bandages over the wound to protect it and keep it from view during the healing process. It took a while to completely heal, and it was awful to look at for a time. But BF is fine now, thank heavens, and back immersed in his car guy activities.

Veterinary Matters

Concurrently, Tab E. Cat had an urgent medical matter, a ruptured blood vessel in his ear that was swollen and painful. A trip to the vet resolved the problem—it involved surgery to drain the blood and stitch it back flat. They literally quilted his ear with stitches. He is all healed up now, and his ear will be forever wonky. Otherwise, he’s still the same fussy old boss cat.

Tab E. Cat waiting for food.

There he is, waiting to be fed.

Unfortunately, during Tab E. Cat’s situation, we didn’t realize that our beloved 10-year-old pit bull, Titan, was in distress.

Titan sleeping on cushion

He’s just sleeping here, back in the office area.

He passed away before we could get him to the vet, and with lots of tears, we buried him near Spencer on a chilly Monday morning.

BF with Titan in a selfie

BF took selfies with Titan sometimes.

We called Titan the “pussycat of pit bulls.” While he was a loyal and protective animal with a deep, throaty bark, he wasn’t vicious or dangerous. Obviously, we are still heartbroken, and not looking for another dog just yet.

Titan with Buddy the puppy on his favorite cushion.

Titan looked after Buddy until he got bigger

We miss our sweet pooch, all 82 pounds of him. He enjoyed hanging out with me in the back room and listening to jazz music. Maybe one day there will be another “velvet hippo.” But for now, Buddy, aka Broccoli Stirfry, has only us and the cats to hang out with.

My Turn

While everything was going on, I was on my feet taking care of BF and the animals—all while doing client work. But that sore throat wasn’t getting better. The day after we buried Titan, I just collapsed. Then I discovered that the same local urgent care center offered telemedicine visits, so I scheduled one.

I met with a doctor via video link at their Mandeville clinic, where they handle the telemedicine calls. He prescribed an inhaler and the antibiotic Z-Pack, which I ultimately didn’t need. The antibiotic was a just-in-case thing. They called the prescriptions into the local Winn-Dixie, I went and got them, and a week later I was much better. I’ll do that again any day of the week.

Speaking of Broccoli Stirfry

He’s now just over 18 months old, and weighs about 75 pounds.

Buddy on the grass with a stick looking regal

There he is, not a thought in his head

A couple of weeks ago he began furiously barking at what turned out to be two bulls on the neighbor’s property.

Bulls under a tree

There they are. Dangerous threats to life, limb, and property.

Obviously a threat to everyone, right? They did get out one day and were wandering around outside the house, but the neighbor came and rounded them up.

Buddy is still chewing on anything he can find, and acting a fool frequently.

Buddy rolling over in the grass

There he is as he normally appears, rolling over in the grass as only he can

To date, he’s destroyed two remote controls, more papers, towels and other textiles, a wooden handle, several plastic things from the kitchen, and an Otterbox case for an iPhone. We discovered that he also likes the taste of the iPhone 12, which belonged to BF’s brother.

While BF was in bed after his ER visit, his brother dropped by, bringing several boxes of Girl Scout cookies for BF. He went into the bedroom to talk with BF but set his phone down by the easy chair.

That’s all this dog needs. He saw it as something left for him because it was within his reach.

Buddy standing in the kitchen looking for food

We get this look a lot from him.

Thirty minutes after he left, (if that long) BF’s brother came back to ask if he’d left his phone at the Casa de Rurale. We didn’t see it, so we rang it. The dog had the iPhone IN the bedding of his kennel, where he’d chewed the Otterbox case off the phone and started in on the iPhone. The glass encasement was shattered but the phone still worked fine. BF and his brother were both shocked, but I wasn’t.

It’s normal for this dog, but nobody listens. No word on whether he’s repaired or replaced his iPhone.

The Thwarted Berry Season

This was a bummer, but Mother Nature does whatever she wants.

Our early and long-term spring weather brought out fresh greenery and began the process of budding blackberries. They were everywhere, and I was anticipating a huge harvest. If Broccoli Stirfy the dog didn’t eat them all first.

Handful of ripe blackberries

That’s all I got whenever I went out to pick.

Then, just like that, we had another short but hard freeze in mid-March. The early berries didn’t make it, but there were more flowers that turned into berries that slowly began ripening.

Unfortunately, because of that freeze, the newer berries didn’t have a chance to ripen before the vines turned brown as they normally do at the end of their season.

Brown blackberry vines

Once the season is over, they’re done.

So once again, the berries are gone. We only got a handful of ripe ones to eat, which I shared with the dog, while I waited for the fruitless harvest. (Get it? Fruitless?) The few we could reach and enjoy were delicious.

BF was asking for another “non-healthy” blackberry dessert. I reminded him of last year’s Blackberry Cheesecake Galette, which he loved. I’ll be happy to make him something again this summer. But anything made with blackberries will have to be from prior years’ harvests in the freezer or bought from a grocery store.


After a cold winter, summer is here, and a hot one. Texas has been experiencing temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and we’ve had some as well. Several memes let transplants from other states know that this only Texas’ “preheating.” The bad news is that the Texas electrical grid is again at risk of failure or at least not keeping up with increasing demand. This may mean brownouts, blackouts, and anyone with a smart thermostat to lose control of it until the demand lessens. Many people found that out the hard way last year and quickly learned how to “opt-out” of that.

Our friend Beverly in central Georgia has had the same 100+ degree heat. She’s staying inside building little dollhouse things for now.

Houston has also had some significant rainstorms like we have. But I haven’t forgotten the spring/summer of 2011, when drought conditions developed in H-Town. It was my third or fourth year gardening behind the condo, and I had plants both in the ground and in pots. But even with watering twice daily before and after work, many of those lovely plants in the little back patio garden, especially zucchini, cantaloupe, and cucumber, dried up in the heat.

We’ve had hot temperatures, with only occasional rain, including some intense storms, too. I’ve been watering the plants myself in the morning and occasionally in the evening except when it rains. April and May have been the usual months for heavy rains, but we didn’t have as much this time around. I’m still planning to make a sturdy, utilitarian raincoat for our colder rainy periods. I’ve got all the supplies and cut the fabric, just need to start stitching. Those lovely lightweight designer raincoats I made for office work don’t cut it here.

And of course, hurricane season began on June 1.

The HeatCageKitchen 2023 Garden Catchup

As he did last year, BF wouldn’t give me a commitment on where to put our garden. So, once again, the garden is in 5-gallon buckets at the edge of the patio. I need to get more. Some are a bit broken but still serviceable.

I kept buying plants and putting them in the kitchen window by the sink where they would get sunlight. The chilly nights kept coming back, so I was reluctant to put anything outside, especially tomatoes and peppers. Finally, I did, mostly because BF was complaining about the “science experiments” in the kitchen window. He says that about anything I’m doing that he doesn’t understand.

One cherry tomato plant was about two feet tall before I put it outside, and now it’s about four feet high with branches and leaves. I’ve harvested many tomatoes so far, and only a few remain in the window to ripen. It’s tied to three stakes to keep it upright, and I trimmed off the brown parts. Hoping for some more new growth with more tomatoes before the end of the season.

Cherry tomatoes on a towel in a window of different degrees of ripeness

Enjoying the last of them soon.

A smaller golden cherry tomato plant with a couple of flowers is not yet flourishing like the bigger one. I’ve been using Garden Safe botanical insecticides because a couple of Mother Nature’s hungry creatures found it and were enjoying both leaves and tomatoes. I found it at Tractor Supply, but you can also buy it on Amazon.

Peppers, Sage, And More

So far, I’ve harvested two little Poblano peppers, one tiny red bell pepper, and two small Anaheim/Hatch chili peppers. More flowers and buds are developing.

Surprisingly, Tractor Supply had Shishito pepper plants again, and I bought two. I’ve harvested one batch and cooked them, then clipped the three smallish peppers to cook for Miss Alice. That’s all I had available for her. If her visit was later we might have had more.

The plants are full of buds and flowers, and I’m anticipating a bumper crop soon. On a recent jaunt to Baton Rouge, (keep reading) I bought a bag at Trader Joe’s to cook up before my garden ones were ripe:

Bag of Trader Joe's Shishito Peppers for $2.29

They are so tasty.

The green onions are growing nicely with one flowering, and I also got a sage plant again. My huge mint plant died in the last freeze, so I bought another one. It’s coming along, and I’ve already used some mint for a Corsican omelette.

Basil, BF’s nemesis, is also growing well. The two original plants were strong before I put them out, then I cut them to propagate more. Those cuttings are well-rooted and planted but still tiny. I’m waiting to see how many will turn into more basil for pesto. I had a hard time finding the 1 cup small square glass type containers with the tight lids, but I finally went to Pyrex’s website and found them on sale. They arrive this week, and I’ll make my first batch soon.

Grocery Shopping

I also made it back to Aldi about a month ago. Got another cauliflower pizza, and lots more delicious things. A couple of weeks before that I headed to Baton Rouge for a Joann/Trader Joe’s run. In addition to the Shishito peppers, I also met this nice lady named Brittani at TJ’s:

Tab E. Cat biting the fish off a Splayd

Lady at Trader Joe's sampling cheese

She was ever so nice, and let me have two bites.

Who was sampling this wonderful blueberry cheese:

Wedge of blueberry cheese from Trader Joe's

It’s so delicious!

Yes, blueberry cheese, and a piece came home with me. It’s something I’ll savor when BF is out of the house, for sure. I also found this Salmon Rub:

Bottle of Salmon Rub from Trader Joe's

This little bottle is so full of flavor, and you don’t need much.

Used it on a piece of fish I got at Aldi, and it was absolutely delicious.

Salmon cooking in pan

That’s all I did, with a bit of olive oil.

Just ask Tab E. Cat.

I finally ate the “quinoa meal” from my initial Aldi trip when BF was out, and it wasn’t bad. You heat up the quinoa and add the other bowl, and stir.

Not bad, and only memorable because of BF’s reaction. It even came with a foldable spork:

Quinoa meal in bowl

Once again I went to Aldi on my own. They do a brisk business and it was not nearly as crowded as opening day. BF was not as impressed with my grocery hauls, reminding me, “It’s just a grocery store.” I feed him good food, no matter what he says.

I Won!

Since I’ve been on Instagram, I have entered a lot of contests for fun. Frequently, the contest requires you to tag someone you’re friends with as a requirement, and sometimes I tag several people. Miss Alice always gets tagged first.

You may remember a couple of years ago that I won Fiesta Spice’s contest during the holidays and received their tamale kit. It’s still in the pantry, but one day I’ll be making tamales. Probably all by myself because BF thinks it’s better to buy them already made.

But I’ve won again—twice in just a couple of months!

Back in April, I entered the contest held by The Pioneer Woman Collection’s account for a Tumbler giveaway. They did a random drawing for two of the Pioneer Woman 40-ounce tumblers—and I won.

These days, you’re nothing without your Tumbler, so I read somewhere. Ree’s daughter Alex loves the Stanley brand tumblers. These PW tumblers were never offered here in our local Walmart, but Hammond had them. They’ve also been quite popular because they seem to be out of stock frequently.

I forgot about the entry, and a couple of days later I was notified that they had picked me. They were shipped from Dallas, and I figured Alex was the shipper. When the box arrived, sure enough, the sender was “Alex Drummond.” Well, it could have been anyone using Alex’s account. But they arrived a few days later:


Pink and blue tumblers from The Pioneer Woman collection in a box.

Aren’t they adorable?

I’ve been using the blue one, and the pink one is a backup. The straw in mine actually came from Target on sale many months ago. The ones that come with the tumbler are clear.

Blue Pioneer Woman Tumbler on the desk

Where you normally see this one, on my desk.

Then I messaged Alex on Instagram and told her that the tumblers arrived safely and that I do appreciate them. The tumbler is great and keeps drinks cold for hours. I’ve been using them ever since.

Showing the #DashStash

Then a few weeks later, the Dash company had an Instagram contest: show us your #DashStash, “for a chance to win anything from our product line that’s in stock.” So, I took a picture and added it to my Instagram stories, which I won’t show here because it’s embarrassing (and it’s gone now, I think.)

Later in the afternoon, I got a message from someone on their social media team that they picked ME. They actually picked two winners, me and another lady with a few of the aqua appliances, including their mini rice cooker. (We need one of those—in red—but BF thinks we don’t.) No word on what the other winner picked, but maybe we were the only two who entered.

Earlier in the day, I mentioned the contest to BF. I asked what he thought about getting a Dash dehydrator if, by slim chance, I was picked as a winner. He said, “Sure, that’s fine.”

So I asked Dash I could have a dehydrator, and they said “yes.” They asked for the mailing address, so I messaged back—and does it come in red? No, it doesn’t but that’s OK. (It used to, though.) I downloaded the manual from their website and gave it a once-over. The package arrived about two weeks later:

Dash dehydrator in shipping box as it arrived

It’s here!

I knew when it was coming thanks to the UPS app. That morning I went to Walmart and bought a bag of organic apples. That night I set out to dry them:

Sliced apples with cinnamon on dehydrator tray

Really easy, and flavored only with cinnamon

Twelve hours later they were done:

Dried cinnamon apple chips


BF then suggested bananas, so that was the next night:

Pretty tasty, although I didn’t add anything. I’ve also dried pineapples and mangoes, which are delicious dried as-is. The trick is thin slices, no thicker than a quarter-inch. You also need patience. I set it up to run overnight and the dried fruit is ready in the morning. Are a couple of trays not quite done? Let it run a little longer for just those trays.

I sent some home with Miss Alice, and her daughter enjoyed both apples and bananas. But BF wasn’t interested in dried fruit. He wants to know when I’m making beef jerky. I’m not adverse to making it, and there are recipes in the accompanying recipe book for making some. Plus, I have a copy of The Complete Dehydrator Book by Carole Cancler, which I received from Callisto a couple of years ago. When I got the book, BF said to me, “That’s OK, I had enough dehydrated food in the military.” After the dried fruit, he’s a little interested but is requesting beef jerky, so that’s planned.

The accompanying booklet has recipes for beef, chicken, turkey, and salmon jerky that I hope to try, and of course, the cookbook, which has recipes for using dehydrated food. I’m planning to do more dehydrating in the future, including the beef jerky for BF.

My #DashStash gets bigger. Need a new shelf. Yup, you know. Blog post coming.

Prepping For Possibilities

That dehydrator was something I’d planned to buy at some point anyway. But there’s a reason for it, and not just because I already have a book on the subject.

As I mentioned, hurricane season is here, and anyone in or around the Gulf Coast watches the weather a little more closely this time of year. We just had a big storm blow through last week that left major damage around here:

Not a hurricane, but enough wind and rain to cause plenty of scenes like this. (We were fine.) If you talk to someone in New Orleans, they may tell you all about the big memorable hurricanes:

  • Betsy, 1963
  • Camille, 1969
  • Katrina, 2005

Plus, a whole lot more. Then there was the flooding in May of 1978 and 1995, still remembered by many. In this area, there was the unnamed storm in 2016 a month before my move here which didn’t impact New Orleans like it did Baton Rouge, and this area which is northeast of the city. Nearby friends J&B in Albany had to move into the second story of their home for months until they were able to get it all repaired. It happens that way.

In our case, there was Hurricane Ida in 2021. Albany friends J&B told me recently that they were out of power for six weeks before their power company Demco restored their service. Then last year, Hurricane Ian went to Florida where one of my client’s project managers lives. She went through the same thing we did, although it wasn’t as long because she’s in an urban area.

Texas Gets Hurricanes Too

In Houston, there was Hurricane Harvey in 2017, less than a year after I moved away, and Hurricane Ike in 2008, during which I spent 9 days with The E-Man and his wife at their place in the New Orleans area. Plus there were other hurricanes that grazed the Texas coast and had people scrambling into grocery stores for water, batteries, bread, milk, and bathroom tissue. (Points if you get that joke.)

That’s just what I remember sitting here writing about this subject. Along the way, we’ve learned some things and relied on BF’s knowledge of such things. While I can’t say we were absolutely ready for either Hurricane Ida, the aftermath, or the big freeze we experienced six months earlier, we did OK, and probably better than others. I’m not complaining, but there is always room for improvement.

Two of my upcoming posts will focus on preparing for emergencies and other things that can uproot your daily routine. Will you have enough food? Will you have enough time? BF and I talk about this sort of thing occasionally and discuss things we can do to prepare.

If that makes us “preppers,” so be it. But when you live in an area prone to hurricanes, earthquakes, or other natural disasters, you must have some level of readiness, or you’re caught short.

More To Come

I have several ideas in various stages of development, and they will also depend on when I can get the pictures uploaded into WordPress and the content completed. I’m working on it, including the two blogs on our trip last year, honestly. Plus, I’m hoping we get to go back to Houston at some point, maybe head to the beach with Miss Alice.

As always, if you have a topic you’d like me to write about, by all means, leave me a comment here.

Until next time. . . .



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