Monday, April 13, 2015

Why I didn’t get the Häagen-Dazs

Why I didn’t get the Häagen-Dazs
A large portion of my Easter Sunday was spent on the couch watching “The Ten Commandments,” which is the norm, but I was feeling rather listless, with one eye swollen from allergies, as if  hadn’t wanted to be mowed or sidewalks blown.
The next day I did something unfortunately rare: Left work early, feeling poorly.
On the way home in my depleted state, I was sure I needed something healthy to cook and eat and restore my vigor. Beef – no, liver – would be my salvation. And an onion, like at Luby’s. No matter that I’ve attempted to cook this just once in all my years. Maybe it was chicken liver at that. I didn’t know what I would be doing, but I knew I’d have to cook it myself and that no one else would want a part of this healing measure.
So I ventured into the grocer and found kidney and chicken liver, but no calf liver. I was just about to ask a woman in the butcher department, but I could see that a shopper had pulled her over for a close conversation. I could hear some of it, but it could not make out the words. As I waited patiently, feeling so cold and undernourished, I figured it out. The shopper was speaking in tongues and had a hold of the butcher woman!
All I could think of  was, she’s speaking in tongues, and I’ll bet there’s tongue for sale on these shelves, but I can’t find the liver.
In short order, the liver was delivered to my cart, I loaded up an onion and headed to the ice cream aisle.
Sure, some ice cream always heals the sick, and I’d had my heart set on a wee carton of Häagen-Dazs coffee ice cream since my friend mentioned literally months ago that she considered herself an “ice cream snob” and preferred that brand or none at all.
So there I was, when I spotted the Magnum. You’ve seen the commercials of the pretty girl bounding over cars in a traffic jam to get to these bars. The sound effect of her teeth popping through the chocolate coating is what sells it for me. I’d never had one and so this seemed like the time.
As I was loading up the car, thinking how I was just blocks away from a hot shower and my bed, my puffy eye caught the box of ice cream bars and I thought, why wait? I got a bar, thought it reckless to eat it while driving, and proceeded to walk around the parking lot for a bit with the delicious ice cream.
Wow, I thought, so nice to be able to go home, but wouldn’t it be weird if someone saw me walking around eating ice cream when I’m supposed to be sick. At that moment, someone calls my name.
So there’s an old college friend headed into the store, who says he’s fetching chocolate to cheer his wife, as they were rear-ended in the car this weekend. He’s showing me photos on the phone of this unfortunate situation and I’m truly touched, yet have to keep licking the dripping ice cream bar in the middle of the exchange. This seems frivolous at the least.
Soon I was down to the stick, made it home, napped and got down to the liver. Nothing to it. I was feeling better with each bite when I heard on the stove that my next nourishing meal, a pot of yellow lentils, was about to boil over. I tended to that and returned to the plate of liver, then heard from the stove that the pot of lentils and decided to boil over anyway. I cleaned up a goopy yellow mess and decided the rest of the liver would be fine for later in the day.
So now there’s one more Magnum bar in the freezer for me and I’m thinking I got the almond. I still haven’t tried the original flavor that looks so good on TV. Oh, and I still have that Häagen-Dazs on my wish list.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Chantell Cattell brightens up LogOn Cafe bar in Beaumont

Chantell Cattell
Yes, that’s her name, Chantell Cattell. It rhymes, she points out. I met this extremely friendly person at the LogOn Café, late-night music hot spot she and her dad run. She wore her long blonde hair up in a knot. The sticks that held it together were tiny paint brushes. The café is full of art, and Cattell pointed out a Bruce Springsteen likeness by an artist who incorporates a “crazy eye” into each portrait. In addition to offering creamy Parmesan or cilantro lime dressing for your salad – or both if you can’t decide – she gets to book bands for the venue.
“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” she said.
Cattell is just another person I’ve met recently who loves what she does and makes everyone smile in the process. I just wanted to share that with you. 

Knights of the Knippers
Barbed wire has Port Arthur ties and the use and abuse of the stuff makes up a chapter in “Six Shooters and Shifting Sands: The Wild West Life of Texas Ranger Captain Frank Jones.”
Author Bob Alexander authors this University of North Texas Press release and covers anecdotes of people waking up to a gun pointed at their faces. I’m glad the west is not so wild any longer. The snipping of barbed wire to steal cattle was an incredibly costly offense carried out by thieves referred to as Knights of the Knippers. But some in San Saba county and elsewhere weren’t too fond of the wire fences when they worked, anyway. Read the book to hear more.

“Manifest Destinations”
Opium dens, stockyards, sky scrapers and Mormons.
I just started the travel season by touring three new cities in olden times. J. Philip Gruen’s University of Oklahoma Press book is subtitled “Cities and Tourists in the Nineteenth-Century American West. He got me so excited that I augmented his book with internet searches of vintage photography and etchings.
A look at tourism marketing in Chicago, after the great fire; Salt Lake City where visitors were encouraged to inquire of the Mormon lifestyle; and San Francisco, where possibly augmented “hidden” opium dens with dubious characters were staged are aspects of this fascinating read.
Just like today, two travelers can tell different stories. Some visitors were overcome by excitement or terror at tall buildings, or the “foreign” ways of living. The irony of Chinatown is that regulations required the Chinese to live in the overcrowded area, yet tourists came to gawk at the situation. Some visitors reported filthy conditions while others raved over neat and orderly shops.

Monday, February 2, 2015

A toast to True West


You’ve got until Valentine’s Day to catch “True West” at Beaumont Community Players. I was on the front row in the intimate box theater and just about got splashed with the Miller High Life characters were consuming. This is set in the ‘70s with synthetic fibers, fern and typewriters. My family had that yellow, rotary wall phone. Two brothers argue about stories. Scripts, as it were. It’s intense.
And, I can’t tell you why so much toast is involved. They’re actually toasting on stage, and the theater smells fantastic. You will want some for breakfast the next day.
Gina Hinson directs Blake Kyler, Michael Mason, Jody Reho and Gladys Thomas in this play.

Map your Mardi Gras
People are all the time saying how glad they are that Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas is family friendly. Take the family out for so much fun you’ll need a plan.  Call the Mardi Gras office at 409-721-8717 if you’d like to volunteer.
Here’s how to plan out all the good music you will hear:
Thursday, Feb. 12
  • 6 p.m. – J.A.G.
  • 8 p.m. – Phillip Glyn Band
Friday, Feb. 13
  • 7 p.m. – Tracy Byrd
  • 10:30 p.m. – Whiskey Myers
Saturday, Feb. 14
  • 5:30 p.m. Chris Ardoin & NuStep
  • 8:30 p.m. – Longneck Road
  • 10:30 p.m. – Randy Rogers Band
Sunday, Feb. 15
  • 4 p.m .- The Stark Experiment
  • 6:30 p.m. – Jamie Bergeron & the Kickin’ Cajuns
 To reach this columnist, write her at

Monday, January 19, 2015

Artist holds her breath for "Birds in Art"

The masked bee eater puts Vickie McMillan in mind of her childhood sword-wielding hero, Zorro. That’s her title for the vivid painting of this blue- and green-feathered bird wearing the black mask nature provided. While the background is an impressionistic blend of more blue and green, eyes focus on the detail in the features of the bird perched on a branch. She holds her breath with each paint stroke of her focal point.
Benign tremors make her hand shake, so she literally stops her breathing to steady herself to paint main subjects. That’s how she conquered her condition, “instead of quitting painting,” McMillan said.
The painting is part of the prestigious  2014 “Birds in Art” exhibition featured at Museum of the Gulf Coast through Feb. 8. It features diverse works from the world over, and McMillan, of The Woodlands, near Houston, said she was thrilled to be included. Artists strive to be chosen for the internationally renowned “Birds in Art” exhibition, organized annually by the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin. McMillan travels to Africa to photograph and paint wildlife.
“I love nature. If I can capture one little brief moment of the beauty, I feel so full,” she said.
I enjoyed hearing this artist discuss her passion and enjoyed other colorful works in the show as well. Artworks in the 2014 exhibition feature birds preening, resting on unexpected perches, engaging in mischief and more. I love what a couple of sculpted birds have done to a typewriter ribbon.
A 132-page full-color, illustrated “Birds in Art” catalogue featuring every work along with artists’ statements is available for purchase. For more information, visit, email the Museum at, or call 409-982-7000.
Volunteer for Mardi Gras
A little birdie, and Facebook, told me that Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas needs volunteers. Who wouldn’t want to be part of Port Arthur’s big weekend and helping people celebrate? The Krewe of Volunteers is looking for some help on Mardi Gras weekend, February 12-15. Volunteering is fun and you don't have to be a Krewe member to get involved, so invite your friends and family, they say.
Time in a ticket booth, or serving beverages while watching everyone go by in purple, gold and green should cheer anyone.

Contact Lisa New at 409-721-8717 or if you'd like to know more.
Darragh Doiron can be reached at

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mardi Gras and Yachty Gras


Mardi Gras Dance with the French people
There’s a new venue for  a  Mardi Gras party around here, and besides Jackie Callier and the Cajun Cousins, you can get gumbo and potato salad and even donate blood. Talk about a one-stop event. The Cajun French Music Association of Louisiana Golden Triangle Chapter will have its annual Mardi Gras dance on Saturday, Jan. 31 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 6621 W. Port Arthur Road.
Donnie Dunk says doors will open at 6 p.m. and the band will play until 11 p.m. Bring your own beverage and get ready for a cake walk, costume contest and whatever else those Cajuns throw out. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and younger. Call Jerry Bellot at 409-626-1766 or Tammy Courville at 409-338-1128 for the scoop.

Meet Kayla
So I’m visiting with Kayla Graffagino of Entré Computer Networking and she’s effervescence personified. She mentioned she’d never been to our Mardi Gras, but had been to “Yachty Gras” in Kemah. What? It’s parades on yachts, going on Jan. 29-Feb. 8. I don’t mind telling y’all about it, because you can go to this “Chance of the Sea” party, and still make it to Mardi Gras in Port Arthur from Feb. 12-15.
Here’s another cool thing about Kayla. She in charge of the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors and would love YOU to volunteer. Not only do we get to spread the good news of great business in Port Arthur, we get to wear really cool blue jackets. Kayla would love you to call her at 409-999-0012 if you’d like to get in on this deal.

 Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas
Visit the Mardi Gras Store in about a week for your beads, etc. bring all your friends out to the parades. The decorate your own free umbrella for the Umbrella Brigade Parade ought to bring out our creative sides. Gumbo cooks are on the competitive alert, too. Call the festival office at
409-721-8717 for more info. 
Contact Darragh at

What's in your Southern Pantry?

Doodle you way to peace?
A couple of sentences a day from thinkers like Gandhi, Buddha, and writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson could put you in a calmer, more peaceful mind. “Daily Zen Doodles” from Meera Lee Patel and Ulysses Press put out these doodles and quotes with an invitation for readers to sketch, relax, focus and reach toward inner peace. It’s a small book, a tad large for a stocking stuffer, but it’s a stocking kind of thought. I know a lot of writers who doodle around their pages, so It’s kind of cool to see how someone else has drawn her thoughts to match sentiments. Here’s a taste from one page:

Do you have the patience to wait till your mind settles and the water is clear? – Lao Tzu

What’s in your pantry?
You probably have some good Southern recipe ingredients on hand. If you find you don’t, Jennifer Chandler can train you with her beautiful new book “The Southern Pantry Cookbook: 105 Recipes Already Hiding in Your Kitchen.”
She’s got lists that tell you why you need dried cranberries (for salads, baking and snacks) and jarred marinara sauce (a shortcut for pastas, casseroles and pizzas).
Deviled eggs will show up on lots of Southeast Texas holiday tables and she’s got some add-in ideas, like smoked salmon and capers, crispy bacon, sweet pickle relish, curry powder, chooppe dolives and barbecue dry rub. See, you probably have all that.
Dishes range from snaper with mustard-pecan sauce and Indoor Smoky Pork Butt to Mississippi Mud Brownies. I trust her, the way she writes about grits, bread pudding and pimento cheese. She knows her stuff.
I always love it when an idea I already use makes it into a book, so I was thrilled to see she shared her friend Margaret’s tip on using up the last bit of jelly in the jar. No waste and great taste:

Jelly Jar Salad Dressing
One fourth cup white wine vinegar
1 almost empty jar of jelly, about 2 tablespoons
one third cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
one half teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Place the vinegar in the almost empty jelly jar and shake well. Add the olive oil, garlic and mustard and shake again until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Darragh Doiron has the news about town for Port Arthur News readers.

Our Natural Beauty

Our natural beauty
Pelicans made splashy landings while white wading birds skirted the shore. They got their catch minding their own business, while human fisherman worked from a bridge. I finally followed the signs to the signs near the Old and Lost Rivers, and sunned on rocks by a gazebo overlooking busy waters. While I picked up a brochure on the J.J. Mayes Wildlife Trace, I can see now I haven’t nearly seen all of the area of the Wallisville Lake Project. Though I did learn a thing or two at interactive displays designed for much younger visitors.          This place was a relaxing surprise I’d been driving past for years. Make some time to stop off Interstate 10 on your next trip toward Houston. Call (409) 389-2285 for more information.

Hold me to it
Embrace those New Year’s resolutions. Build yourself up while cutting yourself some slack. Clean the house. I mean get rid of stuff that you haven’t used. Make some space and be responsible for less stuff. Then move your body and realize eating right gives you the energy you said you wanted. I’ll be looking to share positive thoughts, finds, recipes, etc. with you all in this space. Hold me to it.

New Year’s herbal
For a new year of health, consider some new things from BioTerra Herbs. I’ve received, but not completely played with a couple of varieties I was drawn to because of crazy names and, of course, the health benefits: There’s "AHH" (Detox), "SHUSH" (Snoring) and "Z-Z-Z" (Sleep), 
For digestive issues there is "BELCH."   "GAHH" could get you going and for energy there is "BOING."
This company is not playing around. They offer non-GMO, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Natural, products.
Darragh Doiron loves sharing the good stuff with Port Arthur News readers.