Friday, February 29, 2008


I picked up the business section of the paper this morning and -- RATS -- Expressjet has announced it is cancelling two of its Oklahoma City non-stop flights -- Austin and San Antonio. Apparently ridership was not adequate. I'm doing a series for Southwestern Publications on cities that can be reached from Oklahoma City by non-stop flights. Cancel those two! But most of all, I hate it that Expressjet won't be flying there. I LOVE Expressjet!!!! Expressjet is the closest you'll get to old-fashioned fun flying -- and they feed you.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Gold in Them Thar Hills

I'm working on an article about the Mother Lode country in California and I'm ready to pack up and go. With gold at over $970 an ounce, I think we're ready for a new gold rush. When I was in Sacramento last fall I toured a closed gold mine and was told that if the price rose high enough, the mine might reopen. California has a lot of environmental regulations that make the mining and processing very expensive. I'm writing about the area south and east of Sacramento -- around Sonora and Columbia. Going over pictures from my last trip, I found one of Linda Clark in her persona of Hard Luck Lin. At the time, she was a docent at Columbia State Historic Park. A lot of research went into creating her character. She got so involved with Lin that she's writing a book about her. Imagine -- a young girl in the California gold fields in the 1850s. It's an adventure I'm looking forward to reading.

Photo: Linda Clark a.k.a. Hard Luck Lin, "My clothes is clean but I ain't done my personals yet 'cause it ain't May!"

Friday, February 22, 2008

Nothin' Says Lovin'

My valentine and I were apart on the big day. I ate a chocolate in his honor. Not just any chocolate -- a Tenor's Temptation from Just Truffles in St. Paul. Chocolates here are an art form -- started almost as a joke. Kathleen O'Hehir-Johnson always enjoyed making candy. Working for Northwest Airlines two decades ago, she brought a platter of her truffles as her contribution to a company party. Stunned co-workers wanted more -- deluging her with orders. And Just Truffles was born. Her treats became so legendary that she was asked to create a truffle for dessert at a dinner for Luciano Pavarotti on one of his visits to the area. Working with his secretary, she determined that the perfect combination would include milk chocolate, coconut and Malibu rum enrobed in milk chocolate. She topped the creation with a decorative "P" for the maestro. She and husband Roger attended the concert and Kathleen was puzzled by the fact that the tenor seemed to be trying to show her something. The next day, Pavarotti and his entourage entered her store and his manager explained. Pavarotti had worn the band from the truffle box as a good luck charm at the concert! Luciano was not the only one enchanted by Kathleen's magical treats. Oprah included them in her Favorite Things. Not that she needs my endorsement -- but they're definitely one of my favorite things, too. I hope my husband appreciates that it's the thought that counts because there's no way that chocolate was going to make it back to Oklahoma City!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

North for the Winter

Whoever thought it would be a good idea to go to Minneapolis and St. Paul in February? Well, actually, I did. I'm doing a series of articles for Edmond Monthly/Nichols Hills News/Norman Living/Northwest Style on cities that are a non-stop flight away from Oklahoma City. Since each city means a trip and I already have a busy trip schedule for spring, a two-fer seemed like a no-brainer. My complaint about the temperature -- I spent more time being too hot than too cold! It was 11 the night I arrived, a balmy 20 the next day then a slow slide down to 8 when I left. I really bundled up -- long johns and all. I often wear long johns here in Oklahoma in the winter -- have them on now -- and I'm perfectly comfortable. Well, let me tell you, those Minnesotans keep their buildings warm! It felt good to go outside! Actually, the trip WAS a good idea. I had a great time. Now I want to go back and see both towns in their summer greenery. More about the trip in the next couple of blogs.

Photos: The shot of St. Paul featuring the Landmark Center -- a turn-of-the-center courthouse turned venue for several small museums -- and the lovely Cathedral of St. Paul was taken from my window in the St. Paul Hotel. The skyline shot of Minneapolis was taken through a window at the Guthrie Theatre. The glass in the window was yellow. I color-corrected as much as I was able and I think I did fairly well, though the sky is still a bit green!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Last of the King Cake

The King Cake tradition of Mardi Gras really celebrates Epiphany. The shape of the cake represents the circuitous route taken by the Magi to find the baby Jesus. Paula Stevens of Delicious Donuts in Lake Charles prepared cakes for each of the journalists on our press trip. We got to ice and decorate the cakes which were then boxed and shipped to our homes. Mine got home before I did! I chose the pecan praline filling -- excellent choice -- but the other flavors including chocolate, Bavarian cream, and fruit looked equally tasty. Paula ships cakes all over the country. I'm pretty sure I'm going to continue the tradition next year. The cake was fabulous but now it's all gone. I found the little baby doll hidden in the cake. That means I get to host the next King Cake party. I know where I'm getting it!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Busy Day at the Birdbath

Cedar waxwings are among the world's most beautiful birds with their bands of yellow across the end of their tails, just a touch of bright red and their little black masks. I rarely see one around here, so I'm always excited at a sighting. They usually travel in groups so where there's one, there are often more. I spotted three on this birdbath by my front door and ran to get the camera. By the time I got back, they were gone but I was patient and was rewarded. And, in the meantime, I spotted a yellow-rumped warbler and a nuthatch. Did you know that birding is one of the fastest growing sports in America?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Guys Gone Wild

Now I've seen it -- the Courir or chicken run -- and the trick is to describe it! Apparently, it was quite common in French areas of Louisiana in the 1800s. Most towns gave it up -- it is a rowdy custom -- but a few either retained it or revived it. Elton is a revival town. Each town has its own rules. In Elton, the celebration starts in the country and moves toward town. Only men are allowed to participate. The group is led by the Capitaine and participants are called Mardi Gras. Many of the Mardi Gras are on horseback; the others run or ride on a flatbed. Rows and rows of fringe cover the costumes and capuchons. Beer is a major lubricant for the festivities which start at sunup. The group follows a set route, visiting several homes, begging for ingredients for a communal pot of gumbo. Riders dismount and all wait for the host to release a chicken which sets off a free-for-all as the Mardi Gras race to catch the chicken. I have to say I was rooting for the chickens -- but, though caught, the feathered victims didn't seem to be worse for wear. And though in the past, they would have wound up in the pot -- the gumbo was already in the works for this celebration, so the chickens will live to lay another day. It's traditional for the Mardi Gras to dance for the residents in thanks for the contributions. As the day goes on and the beer continues to flow, the celebration gets wilder. Included in the procession, a cajun band kept the beat going. The whole thing looked like the Cajun counterpart of the Bacchanalia!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Vendredi Gras

Pass the Pepcid! I'm full of boudin, cracklin's, gumbo, fried catfish, and king cake. It's all leading up to Mardi Gras which I'll celebrate in Lake Charles, Louisiana. I'm on a press trip and tonight we watched a cooking class on gumbo then made cone-shaped hats (called capuchons) and masks for tomorrow's Chicken Run in Elton.