Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hunks, gumbo and vintage baseball coming up

Hunks Hammers & Habitat
Mark your calendars for Feb. 21, and get your ticket to Mr. Habitat at the Event Centre in Beaumont. I got a first glimpse at worthy contestants at a paparazzi media night at Madison’s.
Since 1979, Habitat of Jefferson County has built and sold 115 houses. Support Habitat for Humanity’s 6th annual event to begin at 6:30 p.m. Call (409) 832-5853. 

Bridges to sign Civil War novel
Battle of Sabine Pass war buffs, take note:
David Bridges will sign his new historical novel regarding the Civil war. The author and historian will appear at Hotel Elegante, 2355 Interstate 10 in Beaumont, from 5 to 7 p.m. on Sunday and Monday, Feb 9-10. “The Broken Circle” has received rave reviews from Waite Rawls, the CEO of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, VA.
The hero of “The Broken Circle,” Dr./Major James Breathed, is David’s great, great uncle, who was just awarded the coveted Confederate Medal of Honor posthumously.

Taste of Gumbo news
What’s new at Port Arthur Rotary Club’s Taste of Gumbo show? It’s also a craft show this year,  on March 29, at the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center. Libby Arnold is Queen Gumbo. Get your booth for $150. Gumbo tickets will be $10.

Fun stuff
* The Beaumont Lumbermen is forming as an 1860s vintage baseball team. Play with no gloves and old school rules. If this sounds like its for you, call the Gladys City Visitors Center at (409) 880-1750.
* Just $10 will get you into a Mardi Gras party. That includes gumbo; It’s $5 for extra gumbo. Come in costume for the contest. Jackie Caillier and the Cajun Cousins will play at the Cajun French Music Association of Louisiana Golden Triangle Chapter’s annual Mardi Gras dance, which will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22 at Jefferson County Singles Club, 7725 Green Ave., Nederland.
* Museum of Hardin County is new in Kountze. I haven’t been yet, but would love to see the building, contructed in 1917 as the Hardin County State Bank.
* Marty Haggard, yes that’s Merle Haggard’s son, will be at The Liberty Opry on June 14. Plenty of Saturday night shows are scheduled between now and then. I keep hearing from friends and relatives this is the place to be. Our own Jivin’ Gene just played there. And they have famous pie at “half time.” Call 1-877-729-9103 for details or go to
* Go wild with a new map showing the outdoor glory that is Chambers County. Visit for more information on parks, refuges and water play.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sounds Good, Mardi Gras edition

Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas is set for Feb. 27-March 2 in downtown Port Arthur and the Mardi Gras Store is open for business. Catch these goodies to put you in the MG state of mind:

Gulf Seafood
Picture a map of the coast and eating your way along the shore line. Tom Bailey knows his way around a publishing house with 15 titles to his credit. He is showing us the way to amazing dishes through “The Complete Guide to Northern Seafood,’ new from Pelican Publishing. The cookbook goes from onion-baked mullet and a coral sauce with paprika, to horseradish-crusted snapper and an apricot swordfish. Other critters of the sea, like crab and shrimp, get their pages, too.
If you were thinking seafood is too intimidating, know that many of these recipes are short, with a focus on good ingredients and exquisite flavors. Here’s an example:
Shrimp Cocktail Sauce: Would you be buying the stuff if you knew you could create your own with ½ cup chili sauce, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, a half cup ketchup and two teaspoons ketchup?
I put out this next recipe with a nod to outdoors writer Chester Moore, who calls our part of the coast a flounder capital:

Flounder with Citrus Marinade
Juice of 2 limes
Juice of 1 orange or one half cup orange juice concentrate
2 sprigs fresh rosemary or 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
4 flounder filets
In a shallow dish, combine lime  juice, orange juice and rosemary. Add fish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Remove fish from refrigerator, spray with cooking oil and grill for 4 to 5 minutes per side. Serves 4.
Note: Alternatively, bake the fish in a 3750-degree oven for 30 minutes.

The Chocolate Study
SweetWorks Inc. makes premium gourmet chocolates taste good and look amazing in packaging designed to wow. Check out Celebration Pearls in Mardi Gras colors to make your King Cakes one of a kind. We’re talking greens, purples and gold that you may need to try in gumballs, too. Creative people, come and play. Are you at all familiar with Sixlets? Little balls of candy coated, chocolate flavored candy may have been part of your youth, but I’d never noticed them until they started showing up as wedding favors. With the colors I’ve seen, those wedding candy bars have a match for any bride.
Ovation: The Orange orb of foil is designed to bang against a table. Peel off the foil to reveal sections of citrus-flavored dark chocolate. Sections even have little etchings like they were of fruit, instead of amazing chocolate you can’t put down. This is the very stuff you’ll eat right for a long time so you can splurge on an experience.
Ovation Sticks or “batonnets” in cappuccino come in a six-sided column with some kind of origami top and packets of slender, rich sticks that are just enough in size and nearly too much in flavor. They’re intense and I can’t wait until my next ration. It should come as no surprise that I am equally impressed if not more so with the caramel version. You get a rich, melt-in-your-mouth sensation from this super-thin stick.
Niagara Chocolates - Sweet ways to say, I Love You:
Chocolate Champagne Bottle: Even though I immediately informed the birthday girl that the realistic looking foil covered bottle was made of chocolate and contained no actual Champaign, she didn’t believe me. Finally we had to brak it open and spend the night eating a wall of milk chocolate. Dinner guests loved the concept. I’ve already bitten heads off Niagra white, milk and dark chocolate bunnies which are ready to hop to shelves this Easter. Don’t worry, lovely chocolate eggs in foil pastels will arrive with the bunnies.

Foot Massage
Prep your feet for walking the Mardi Gras parade route. Combine tea tree oil, wild mint and lavender and your feet will thank you. Thank Earth Therapeutics for Reflexology Foot Massage, a New York-based company reminding us of the notion that feet contain “reflex” pressure points that mirror pressure points throughout the entire body. Could a foot massage get to your “chi” and harmonize your entire body? If feels great when I use it. I can only imagine the contents unleashed in the hands of a professional.
It could be that the very phrase “foot massage” puts you in the mind of a scene from “Pulp Fiction.” This greaseless glide cools, heals, soothes, stimulates and releases an aroma that will send your mind to a spa, or an Asian garden, or a secluded waterfall…

Saturday, January 11, 2014

New this 12-Week year? Brushing, mummies and mushrooms

The Brush Off
Washing my face is one of the best parts of my day since I’ve tried the new Silk’n DermBeaute Deep Penetrating Facial Brush. Another is immediately after when I feel so invigorated I can’t stop touching my skin. I know you’re not supposed to touch, because then you’d have to wash again, but the washing feels so good. Anyways, best not to overuse a great thing. It does feel like the power of a spa in an ergonomic little machine with soft brushes to clean sensitive skin and other heads that exfoliate and stimulate. It happens through sonic vibrations. So now you’re clean, but here’s where they get  you: without all those dead cells building up, your fancy schmancy creams and treatments will now absorb and do their job better and your skin is “brighter.” It’s a win-win and worth a little extra you ought to spend on yourself sometimes. The benefits pay off.
Look for this brand. I remember back in the ‘70s my cousin got a prototype of this kind of brush and I wanted one soooo bad. I eventually tried one that seems archaic to the DermBeaute.  I feel I should have more to say about something I love so much, but bottom line: It does what it says, very well.

Mummy look for high-tech
LoopAttachment’s super-soft silicone case for iPhones is called the Mummy. It’s a wrap. Like bandages. This cool tool seems a contradiction, because it is protecting your phone even as the impressive sleek parts of your actual phone peek through. And here’s another thinker. The bands in back expand enough for you to tuck a few credit cards in there. Why, those should be kept “under wraps” somewhere else, one might “charge.” A woman headed out on the town will appreciate this feature as she slides her slim bundle into a tiny evening bag. Men, your Mummy won’t pick up lint as some covers do, makers say.
I’m loving the attention Mummy is getting and I love the sleek feel of the silicone. They come in crazy color packs, like The Hulk, in purple, neon green and black. Creators are proud to be associated with downtown Chicago. Wonder if they do business near offices of “The Good Wife?”

Mushroom kit
It wasn’t my first log. With GMHP Gourmet & Mushroom Products, Foodies can grow shiitake, pom pom blanc, oyster, Sonoma brown and other mushrooms you may not have even heard of. (I confess, I hadn’t heard of two of the ones I just mentioned.)
So you water this log and keep it your home until little shrooms start producing right there in your home. Then you just cut them off and eat them. It’s a curiosity for the family, though the process is a bit slow for a party game. It sure is a delicious conversation starter. Visit for the scoop on your indoor mushroom kit. I love the paperwork that comes with this earth-loving product. It’s printed on sustainable eucalyptus paper and tells how you can recycle your kit into potting soil. The shiitake kit I tried could produce two or more flushes, or crops. That didn’t happen to me, though. And I thought I had a green, or fungus, thumb.

Can you do a 12-week year?
Instead of asking “how” all the time, try “what if.”  Think of your week like the business world thinks of quarters in the year, and pick up the pace. Set off blocks of time to focus on tackling the work you’d rather put off – be it you’re company’s big job or  organizing the school carpool schedule. After all, home and work life go together to make a whole experience. Wouldn’t it be great to have more time and a higher success rate when you’re done?

“When you redefine the concept of a year, your life will change,” promises Moran. “A year is no longer 12 months; it is now only 12 weeks, followed by the next 12 Week Year, ad infinitum. Each 12 week period stands on its own.
          “You no longer have the luxury of putting off critical activities, thinking there is ‘plenty of time’ left to meet your goals,” he adds in press materials. “When you have only 12 weeks, each week matters, each day matters, each moment matters. And the result is profound.”
The moment an athlete becomes great is not when the gold medal is won. That is evidence of greatness, which comes when he or  she makes the decision to do what it takes to become great, authors say and urge us to think of deadlines as the “good guys.”
 “Deadlines aren’t sinister in and of themselves—we only feel that way about them when we aren’t on track to meet them or when they’re unreasonable,” Moran asserts. “But realistic deadlines are actually great motivators. They are tools that can help you to hone your focus, increase your efficiency, and realize your full potential. When you think about deadlines this way, it makes sense to have more of them, not less! They can help you to create end-of-year energy, focus, and commitment throughout the year.”
Become the CEO of your own life, be honest and plan for success. I love this kind of book and would love a lot of people I know to both read it and follow the advice. Here’s one for the road. Try to stop thinking you “have to” do something and say I “choose to.”

Sunday, January 5, 2014

E Pluribus Chili means we're talkin' Texas

E Pluribus Chili means we’re talkin’ Texas

E Pluribus Chili
The motto above comes with an eagle clutching a spoon and a full beer mug in his talons and speaks for Texas Chili Parlor, a rustic establishment across from the Texas Capitol that has kept legislators in chili, burgers and Mexican flavors since 1976. I just tried it for the first time and savored the total experience, from the neon lights and worn tables and clientele of tourists, locals and suited politician types to the rather primitive “powder room” with a University of Texas shower curtain as a door. I wanted to try the Habanero chili on a burger, but the waitress said the 3X brisket bowl of red was hotter than that. I enjoyed every bite, but wonder if they got my order mixed up, because the heat level was mild on my scale. I went at a quiet time. I’d love to be the Texas fly on the wall when this place is hopping.
Here’s some more Texas talk:

Legends and Lore in Texas
“Cowboys, Cops, Killers and Ghosts” covers a lot in the title, but the subtitle, “Legends and Lore in Texas,” kind of opens things up again. Kenneth L. Untiedt edited this Texas Folkore Society LXIX publication that has so much to offer. One store is about Hemphill in the old days when people dressed up to go to town  and men played dominoes in the square. At least some of that is still going on. Some of the vintage cop talk may sound “hinky” today, but the young ones used to call the veterans “old heads” on the Houston PD force, one remembrance accounts. Car hops who liked cops were dubbed fender lizards.
Then we move on to ghost towns of the Big Thicket and more Lone Star good stuff.

Galveston Bay Drive & Discover
We may appreciate the Galveston area for a fun day of ferry riding, seafood, beach feel and shopping.  Galveston Bay Foundation and Galveston Bay Estuary Program partnered on the new Galveston Bay Drive & Discover Guide to help Texans realize what a valuable economic and recreational asset the Bay is. 

The Drive & Discover guide is available in hard copy and as a free app on iTunes and Google Play. Look for more than 55 places to experiences in seven bay areas.  Highlights: ancient shell middens, early cattle ranches, first offshore oil rigs in Texas, seagrass meadows and world-renowned birdwatching sites. Download the app or request a hard copy of the Drive & Discover guide from the Galveston Bay Foundation at (281) 332-3381 or at

The appliance every Texan should have
KRUPS has a mini chopper that’s sleek and efficient and looks great on the kitchen counter. I wonder what’s the first thing cooks in other states think of when they see it. I thought, I could make salsa for breakfast eggs, lunch salads and dinner nachos. Salsa every day, with different ratios of jalapeno, tomato, fruit, onion, etc. Choppers won’t start until you get them lined up, and sometimes the struggle with that leads to bad thoughts, but this KRUPS one behaves when you chop, puree, blend and emulsify. I’ve made the enclosed pancake recipe and created an original salad dressing and can’t wait to whip some cream. But you guessed it, this 300 watt baby is earning its keep by turning out never-ending salsa. Yee haw Lone Star salsa lovers.