Friday, October 24, 2014

The Big Project is almost done!

(Not going to mention here that I haven't blogged since Oct. 1st!!!! What's happening to me?)

We've been adding a cast iron stove/fireplace to the outside pavilion.  It's a bit more of a project then I thought it was going to be, but it will all be worth it in the end.  We ordered a nice little fireplace that has a blower (sqwee!!) that should help keep us a bit warmer on the pavilion when it really gets cold.  Not that we get a lot of cold weather here, but it will extend the amount of days that we can enjoy our big outdoor room. Then we had to locate the right kind of stove pipe, the thing-a-ma-jigs that you have to put on the roof for the smoke to go out (I'm so technical, aren't I? ha!), a grate for inside the stove, various other stuff you need that I had no idea about, and then we got started.
John poured a nice little stage area in the corner where we wanted the stove.....then that had to dry and cure for a few days....
 Then we had to go buy the flat rock to top that off with, lay it out and glue those down.....and allow that to dry for a few days....
 then spread out the grout that was a LOT darker then we had counted on.....but its growing on me...., then wash the extra grout off of the rock as best we could.....then let that dry and cure for a few days....
 then John had to straighten out the front face of the little stage area so we could put on the Mexican tile that we ordered for it and then let that dry and cure for a few days.....
 Meanwhile the stove came in and we put that in (well, not we....he.)  Trying to get this thing level was no fun.  That rock would not cooperate.  We ended up having to put some tiles under the legs, but its level now.  Sigh.....
John then cut the hole in the roof and installed the stovepipe.  It was a bit easier then I thought it would be, or maybe John just made it look that way.  
 Next, John pasted the Mexican tile on the front face of the stage.  Our floor out there is semi-level, which means its not really level, so that always frustrates him.  I say, do the best you can and let it go. No amount of anxiety is going to make that floor level.  In the end, he got it done.  Now we have to let that dry and cure.....
 I think they turned out nice.  I like the tile John picked out.
Yesterday John did the grout around the tile.  I haven't taken a picture of it yet.  It's drying and curing.

The grate came in yesterday, so as soon as we have a cool day, we'll fire up the stove and see how it does.  I'll post a picture then!

Now I'm dreaming of a little sofa and chair to sit around the fire.....I'll have to keep my eye peeled for a good buy.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Joss is 8 months old!

Can you believe it?  Where does the time go.....
From this tiny baby....

to this charmer...

in 8 short months.

Movie Review --- The Maze Runner

Another book that we've been listening to is The Maze Runner on audio-book.  We started listening to it on our way back from Mississippi, and although we didn't finish, we were looking forward to finding out what the mystery was about these kids, stuck in a glade in the middle of a huge stone maze, and who put them there, and WHY?  And what is up with the huge partially mechanical animals that come out at night and run the maze?

We went to see the movie on Tuesday, and were not disappointed.  The actors that were chosen for each of the roles were great, and we finally got a clue about the ending, although they left a lot to a future movie based on the second book, The Scorch Trials. I find this to be similar to the Hunger Games in some ways, but the basis of the trial they find themselves in is very different. Now I'm looking forward to the next movie to see what the heck is going on!
I give it 4 stars!  Go see it!

Monday, September 29, 2014

L'auberge Casino Resort -- Thursday, September 25

Thursday morning we had a leisurely breakfast at the B&B in Vicksburg before we packed up and headed to Louisiana.  A last visit to the home, and a nice conversation with another couple who had just arrived the night before from St. Louis.  They were doing some family tree/history travel.

Passing over the Mississippi a couple of times winding our way south, we arrived in Lake Charles around 1pm.  We stopped at John's favorite Cajun restaurant in the world, Steamboat Bill's for a late lunch.  We both had the gumbo -- so good.

Then we headed over to L'auberge at about 2:30 pm to check in.  I didn't take too many photos here because they won't let you take pictures in the casino.  We spent some time there, relaxed a lot, and had a late dinner at the Buffet there.  John did some more gambling after dinner, but I went up to just relax some more.  It was a great evening.
 Pretty room....

The view from our window -- 12th floor. They are building a Golden Nugget next door. The lazy river pool below us is part of this casino. It was over-cast, so not too many in the pool.

Friday was a travel day -- home again.  A perfect vacation!

What I'm Reading --- Fuzzy Nation

John and I listened to this novel on our way to Mississippi last week.  It was so good, we could not wait to get in the car on the way to Louisiana to finish it up.  It's sci-fi, and also quite funny.  Written by John Scalzi, and narrated by Wil Wheaton. We highly recommend it!

The description from Amazon:

Jack Holloway works alone, for reasons he doesn't care to talk about. Hundreds of miles from ZaraCorp's headquarters on planet, 178 light-years from the corporation's headquarters on Earth, Jack is content as an independent contractor, prospecting and surveying at his own pace. As for his past, that's not up for discussion.

Then, in the wake of an accidental cliff collapse, Jack discovers a seam of unimaginably valuable jewels, to which he manages to lay legal claim just as ZaraCorp is cancelling their contract with him for his part in causing the collapse. Briefly in the catbird seat, legally speaking, Jack pressures ZaraCorp into recognizing his claim, and cuts them in as partners to help extract the wealth.

But there's another wrinkle to ZaraCorp's relationship with the planet Zarathustra. Their entire legal right to exploit the verdant Earth-like planet, the basis of the wealth they derive from extracting its resources, is based on being able to certify to the authorities on Earth that Zarathustra is home to no sentient species.

Then a small furry biped--trusting, appealing, and ridiculously cute--shows up at Jack's outback home. Followed by its family. As it dawns on Jack that despite their stature, these are people, he begins to suspect that ZaraCorp's claim to a planet's worth of wealth is very flimsy indeed...and that ZaraCorp may stop at nothing to eliminate the "fuzzys" before their existence becomes more widely known.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Civil War Campaigns in Raymond and Port Gibson, MS - Wednesday, September 24

On Wednesday we traveled a bit outside of Vicksburg to a couple of Civil War sites nearby.  But first we started with another great southern breakfast at the B&B that featured Quiche Lorraine.  It was delicious, and of course was accompanied by grits again! Not one meal yet without grits of some kind here. Ha!
First we traveled to the small town of Raymond, Mississippi.  The write up in our book, Civil War Sites, The Official Guide to the Civil War Discovery Trail, was a bit misleading.  First we could not find the entry to the Confederate Cemetery there.  We found it, but after circling it three times, there was no gate.  I'm not kidding.  Perhaps you were supposed to just pull off in the grass on the busy road there, but we weren't very comfortable with that, so we just looked as we passed by and made do with that.  Supposedly these are the soldiers who died at the Battle of Raymond, with 109 identified, and many others were unknown.
 We did find the Raymond Battlefield, but it wasn't very well marked either.  We just happened to stumble on it because another car had pulled over there.  They have some signage in the park, with a place mowed and we think they probably use it for reenactments, because there were some benches there in a semi-circle.

There was a big battle at this river crossing - Grant vs the Confederate soldiers.  Grant encountered such fierce resistance here that he withdrew and decided to divide his force and make a end run about the southern forces to take Vicksburg.  There's a nice circular walk about the field there, and a line of cannons.
We then drove on to Port Gibson to see the Grand Gulf Military Monument Park, maintained as a State park.  They have a little museum at the entry, and then a drive through the entire park to view various battle sites and a small cemetery.
 I think there's something wrong with that rifle at the top. Just a hunch.
 The young girl at the end is named Mary Russell.  That sounds familiar to me, somehow. ???
 No we're not!
 This still has seen better days
 They moved the town jail to this site to serve as the armory  during the siege, then it got blown up.  That hole is what is left.

This reminds me of some movies I've seen...very familiar.

 The cemetery was sad, most of the graves have slid off the hillside, and many of the graves were very young people, most in their 20s.
Some great examples of Spanish moss.

It's a nice park, with an area for tenting, camping and campers, and an area right on the Mississippi river.  John climbed all the way to the observation tower that they have there, too, but whew...too many stairs for me.

From there we drove on to the Windsor Ruins, a southern plantation home that was built in 1863.  It survived the civil war, but was burned to the ground in 1890 by a careless cigarette.  Geeezzz! 

On the drive back we saw miles and miles of kudzu plants that have just taken over the entire countryside.  It is just eerie.

Back in Vicksburg, we rested a bit and then had dinner at Walnut Hills, which was the best meal that we had during the trip so far.  They are known for their fried chicken, which we both tried, and recommend highly.  John tried a couple of good beers, the Southern Pecan was brewed locally.  We had a very nice dinner.

 Fried pickles!

 Pecan pie to end the night!
John at the front entry at Walnut Hill

Thursday we're off to Louisiana.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Vicksburg National Military Park - Tuesday, September 23

After a beautiful southern style breakfast at our B&B (peppered eggs, cheese grits, biscuit, and fruit) we were off to the first stop of the day, the Vicksburg National Military Park.  Before we left the Anchuca Mansion, we took a tour of the place that started with a film they made a few years ago, narrated by a woman who was actually born in the house.  It's a beautiful place, to be sure, and I could do an entire post on the different types of formal draperies in the place.  I just kept thinking, "I'm so glad I don't have to dust all of this stuff." It must take someone FOREVER to get that all done, there's so much stuff in here.
The ceiling medallions like the one in the center of this picture are original to the house (1830) and are made of marble dust and horse hair.  Amazing artistry.
 One of the main rooms upstairs that they use for a B&B.  Luckily it was free so we could see it.
 Original tea set from the first owners.
 Someone is an English Monarchy collector - all cups and dishes from England, including the current prince William and his wife (the 4th cup over on the middle row).
 An example of the fussy draperies here - each room is different.
We think this might be an early Chinese checkers game. Pretty marbles.

Next we were off to the military park.  First, let me warn you that this is not a little place.  You will need to break this into morning and afternoon, since it took us over 6.5 hours to see the whole thing.  We were yearning for a sandwich at about 2 pm, but decided to just tough it out and plan on an early dinner.  But wow, it's so worth your time!  This one started with a film in the welcome area, and then you are free to drive through the rest of the park at your leisure.  At first we were stopping at each area, but soon it just became too much! There are thousands of monuments to each state that had a part in the siege of Vicksburg, and a stop at each skirmish that took place.
 Lots and lots of cannons and monuments!
 More cannons

 An example of the elaborate monuments you will find in the part.  Most are dedicated to the soldiers from each of the states that fought here, both Union and Confederate.
 Blue plaques are Union, red plaques are Confederate points of where each group either advanced or fell.
 One of the most elaborate monuments...whew!
The national civil war cemetery, where over 17,000 union troops are buried, of which 13,000 are unknown.  The small blocks that are shorter are all unknown soldiers.  This is the saddest thing.  Most were so, so young.
 The restored union gunboat, the USS Cairo, exhibit is near the cemetery.  They pulled this boat up from the Yazoo River in the 1960's and have semi-restored it for display. 
 The Texas monument was the final stop of our day in the park.  I was EXHAUSTED!!!
 After a brief stop back at our digs (to take off my clunky shoes!) we went off in search of an early dinner.  We chose Rusty's Riverfront Grill (so they used to be riverfront, but when the Mississippi changed route, it left this area of the river high and dry).  We started with their famous fried green tomatoes, which were delicious, and then I had the blacked red fish with crab sauce.  Very good.  John had crab cakes, and then a big slice of coconut pie.  Oh, and I had 2 glasses of wine!  That helped me forget my aching feet! ha!
Fried green tomatoes with crab sauce

  I took about 150 pictures today, but that's way too many to share here.  There really was so much to do and see today, we were overwhelmed.  Time for some rest!