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 EntrĂ© 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.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Mardi Gras a Safari Pardi


Mardi Gras is a Safari Pardi
Who’s ready for Mardi Gras? My doors at home have beads and garland in purple, gold and green.
Laura Childress says the 2015 season is ready to roll.
Look for two new parades and a gumbo cookoff. Cynthia Hinds, Majestic Krewe of Aurora Ball Captain, said the ball’s Safari Pardi theme will feature a “pardi” of pageantry on Feb. 7.
 Is your band interested in playing Mardi Gras? Do you want to join a krewe? Contact to be part of the biggest “Pardi” of the year. For information about joining or how to be a sponsor, visit or call the Mardi Gras office at  409-721-8717.
This year’s downtown event will offer new and exciting activities.  Watch for details soon about new hours, parades and more.
“Get involved be a part of the festivities,” Childress says.

Louisiana fun
I’m hearing fun reports on the Golden Nugget casino and hotel in Lake Charles. One was of a room with a curtain, not a full door, between the bath and bed. I got on line and that’s exactly what it looks like. Unusual perhaps, but still pretty fancy. I’d certainly love to stay there. Can’t wait to go, but I’ll be checking out the eateries much more closely than the machines.

Cajun stuff on Pinterest
Now that Pinterest is divided into categories, I’m tickled by all the options. I looked up gumbo for my mother and found something called gumbo dip, which she has indicated she would make, but has not of yet. So then I went to boudain and found a photo I took of boudain kolaches in Port Arthur. But it was the oysters that super-amazed me. I saw categories with beautiful images of stewed, fried, raw and boiled oysters. Then there were categories for shooters, oyster crafts such as shells adorning mirrors, garlands made of the shells and then there were the pearls. What I’d never have expected to see is that a there are a lot, lot of people who have oyster tattoos.
Darragh Doiron has Cajun roots and loves to share them with Port Arthur News readers. Reach her at