Monday, October 30, 2017

Habitat For Humanity Build #9: Mandeville, Louisiana

We just finished up another two week Care-A-Vanner build with the Habitat For Humanity affiliate in Mandeville, Louisiana. This affiliate usually has three to five houses in various stages of construction, so we quickly learned to be open to any type of work during our time there.

During each Habitat build, Doug and I often discuss what type of work we like best. This time we got to work on the two homes that were in the final stages of construction. The work on these involved completing stairs and decking, building fences, touch-up painting and lots of clean up ... something in each of our skill sets!

During two days of our build, we moved to a site with a house in the early stages of construction. This third house was going to require far more carpentry magic than I possess, and I had to fight the feeling that I lack the talents and skills needed to contribute to the end product.

But one day as I was cleaning the months of construction grime off the windows, I had some time to think ... lots of time as it took me two days to remove the layers of drywall mud, manufacturer's stickers, paint splatters and remnants of spray foam insulation gone bad.

And in the end, what joy to see the bright Louisiana sunshine glow through the shiny clean windows and reflect off the shiny clean tile floors!

As I worked, I thought about how God is also busy removing the grime that may build up in each of us. He allows us to use our talents to let our light shine forth as we successfully complete whatever task we are given on the Habitat build.

Our Light Shines ...

... When two engineers work together to complete an
"over-designed" and "way over-thought" set of stairs!

... When two conscientious women search out and
cover up all the white splatters on the dark siding
because "we want it to look nice"!

... When team leader Cherilyn patiently
teaches us about power tools, 

... while team leader Joe knows who needs
"just a little closer supervision" as they lay concrete!

... When a step is "added to the construction plan"
by volunteer Mike in order to make access
to the shed safer for the future homeowner!

... When these two newbies tackle the task
of marking the studs in order to facilitate the nailing of the siding,
and leave behind a few kisses and hugs!

... When the enthusiasm for cleaning the floors
brings out the song and dance,

... and finding a cleaning bucket becomes
a playful game of tug-of-war!

And Our Light Shines in the Smiles of the Future Homeowners ... 

... Anticipating making Christmas dinner
in her new kitchen!

... Looking forward to
"catching the bus" from their new front porch!
... Planning to give her teenage niece
a stable home with a "room of her own"!

A Habitat build can be difficult at times, but by letting our light shine, we help bring that dream of a peaceful home closer to reality for so many deserving families!

Until next time ... let your light shine ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

New Orleans and All That Jazz

Our most recent Care-a-Vanner build brings us to Slidell, Louisiana. Located on the "North Shore" of Lake Pontchartrain, it is a 45 minute drive into New Orleans. While our Habitat "work-ateering" (a little work with all the fun of volunteering) keeps us busy Tuesday through Saturday, we were able to explore the "Big Easy" on a few days off. Equipped with the AAA Travel Book and our "guides" Joanne and Gary, we explored the architecture, food, music, culture and All That Jazz that makes New Orleans unique.

Warning: getting in and out of New Orleans parking lots can be a bit of a challenge. One evening while listening to the jazz that filled the streets, Doug got a text that our parking was about to expire. But no worries, it was easy to pay for another hour electronically which is what he did ... only to get back to the car an hour later and find our tires had been locked for overdue parking. Thankfully, he was able to show the attendant the text extending our time ... thus saving us a $200 fine and unlocking fee!

Despite the challenges of traffic and parking, the strolls along the streets of the French Quarter

and the Garden District reveal the reward of strikingly unique architecture.

One afternoon we took a ride on the St Charles Avenue Streetcar (a bargain at $3 for a day pass) alongside the majestic live oaks and antebellum mansions of the Garden District.

Our walk among the pristine homes and gardens of the unique neighborhood revealed historical and architectural treasures of all kinds.

The house where Jefferson Davis,
President of the Confederacy,
passed away in on Dec 6, 1889.

Lafayette Cemetery
... looks like this site has an "opening"!

Ornate iron fencing

... that protect elaborate gardens.

Multi-million dollar mansions just
tempting us to become homeowners again
... NOT!

There are also culinary experiences that need to be on every tourist's list when visiting New Orleans.

Cafe du Monde's 
beignets and chicory coffee to jump start
your day ... or evening ... or night as it is open 24 hours a day!

 The Muffuletta, the traditional sandwich of New Orleans,
layered with Italian style meats, cheeses and the
"oh, so good" olive salad!

Shrimp, crawfish, catfish, crab, or oysters by themselves ...
or all together in one of New Orlean's famous seafood gumbos!

The Hurricane from Pat O'Briens ...
a fruity concoction with a wee-bit of alcohol
that goes down just a little too well on a
hot and humid New Orleans afternoon!

And for Doug and all the non fru-fru drinkers out there ...
numerous craft breweries
and at least one New Orleans' souvenir coaster! 

Music ... and specifically ... Jazz is the heart and soul of New Orleans.

From the street corner musicians,

to the Bourbon Street bars,

to the open courtyard cafes,

to the historical
Preservation Hall Jazz Band

New Orleans' establishments and musicians are entertaining while preserving the unique sound of Jazz for all ages to enjoy.

But probably the most surreal experience for these tourists was the distinctly unique culture of New Orleans. 

Located along the lower Mississippi River, this town has embraced the vibrant cultural influences of many people, past and present. As tourists, we quickly learned ...

that people of all walks of life ... young, old, rich, poor ...
embrace the Bourbon Street scene in spite of the
unsavory smells of liquor and garbage that linger in the street.

that Jazz, Rock n Roll, and Rap musicians,
alongside young kids drumming on plastic buckets,
fill the streets with pulsating beats,

that friends can smile through a Hurricane,

And enjoy 
All That Jazz ... together!

Until next time ... embrace All That Jazz that surrounds you ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

Mardi Gras Beads for Minnesota Viking Fans!
Thanks for following along!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Nashville Sights, Sounds, and Tastes

Welcome to the Belle Meade Plantation in Historic Old Nashville!

Elegant surroundings, southern BBQ, and country music welcomed us as we explored Nashville, Tennessee last week. Along with our travel buddies, Joanne and Gary, we quickly found out why Music City, USA is one of the most popular travel destinations in the US. Tempting us with hundreds of attractions, it became clear that our week in town would only be a brief introduction to all the iconic sights, sounds, and tastes that Nashville has to offer.

Our home for the week was Seven Points Campground on the shores of J. Percy Priest Lake. This Corps of Engineers facility provided large, long wooded sites ... except for Joanne and Gary's site #55 which had a few too many tree limbs hanging over their RV pad making it a challenge to get in. But with a few creative maneuvers by Gary, they were set, and we were ready to plan our Nashville explorations over happy hour!

We talked about all the attractions and entertainment that were now in our backyard ... music, history, breweries, restaurants, and shopping. Maybe a new pair of cowgirl boots??!!

So many choices ... and one thing was for certain. We were going to get our initiation into the art of country music with a visit to the 

Grand Ole Opry!

Joanne and Gary snagged us some tickets, and we were able to attend the Friday evening show. It just happened to be the Grand Ole Opry's 92nd birthday weekend, so we enjoyed a musical birthday party on the plaza beforehand.

Once inside, we were entertained by Ricky Skaggs, Pam Tillis, Vince Gill, Connie Smith, Hunter Hayes, Tracy Lawrence, Mike Snider, Diamond Rio and our favorite ... The Oak Ridge Boys!

It was easy to see how the Grand Ole Opry has stood the test of time and remains an American classic. Country music delivers the boot-stomping rhythm and enjoyment for music lovers of all ages.

Biking Nashville

We found that Nashville has quite a few bike paths and decided to use our bikes to explore the city. The campground is located about 15 miles east of downtown, so one afternoon we drove to Two Rivers Park and hopped on the bike path that led us into the downtown area seven miles later.

Another time we parked by the Nissan Stadium and were able to cross the Cumberland River via a pedestrian bridge. In a matter of minutes, we were in the heart of the city.

From there, Doug was able to lead us on bike-friendly roads as we discovered ...

The Parthenon!
It is supposed to be a replica of the one in Greece,
but because it is closed on Mondays, we could not check it out.
Sorry, Doug, but you may still have to take me to Greece!

Another State Capitol building!
Too hot ... not going to climb up
that hill to get right next to it.

Water fountains just begging you to
bike through and cool off!

And plenty of natural beauty as the bike path
meandered along the rivers and though neighborhoods
lined with southern plantation-like homes.

And after biking around town
in the heat and humidity, he skillfully
managed to find Tailgate Brewery
complete with a large craft beer
selection, delicious pizza, but sadly,
no coasters to add to his collection!

Nashville Music

The true Nashville experience lies in the live music at resonates on the streets day and night. The sights and sounds along Broadway Avenue confirmed to us why the Music City continues to draw music lovers of all ages. 

From country to rock and everything in between, the music venues entertained all. Just walk down the street ... hear something you like? Come on in and grab a bar stool or rocking chair ... or grab your partner and head to the dance floor for a honky tonk good time!

You never know who you may run into when in the Music City!

Nashville Fun Rain or (Moon)Shine!

The remnants of Hurricane Nate brought a little rain to the area. But rainy days and girlfriends are the perfect combination for a "retail therapy" day. And Opry Mills Outlet Mall was calling our name! Persuaded by the promise of a Cinnabon, the boys came along.

Doug and Gary totally shocked us by doing some "buying" also. I'm looking forward to seeing the Wildebeest decked out with laser Christmas lights this December! They also discovered a fun and FREE mall activity while we were shopping ... Moonshine tasting! We enjoyed teeny tiny sips of peach, orange cream, coffee, lime, salted caramel, sweet tea, strawberry shortcake, cinnamon, ginger snap, butter cake, apple pie, chocolate silk and just plain moonshine. My favorite was chocolate silk ... but not for $30 a pint.

We are going to spend that money on the other Nashville delectable ... Barbecue!

Nashville sights, sounds and tastes enjoyed with friends ... now that's music to our ears!

Until next time ... Have a Grand Ole (Opry) Time ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

On the road to New Orleans for a two week Habitat build and a first time visit to the Big Easy. As always, we appreciate your comments and suggestions.