Four Days in the Hotel Provincial

Four Days in the Hotel Provincial

Loud thunk of pigskin against our bedroom wall.
Children giggling.
Is that French I hear in my ear?
An adult hush.
The soft sound of the fountain gurgling in the courtyard just outside the wall.
Childish giggling repeating but stifled by maternal rebuke.

The steady sound of my mate and his sleepy snorts and gasps for air.
A bad cold for certain.
Alarm clock beeping,
Amtrak horn keep us from sleeping.
Hot shower streaming.
And out the clanking, ill-fitted hotel door.

Take a left toward that Old Man River.
Just down the Rue de Chartres.
Past the church square where lost souls sit at the foot of the image of the creator hanging below a towering spire.
In the square center illuminating a rearing figure of a horse and Jacksonian rider all the vendors anticipating the beginning of a brand new day.
“Let me tell your future?”,” Let me shine your shoes?”, “Care for a tour or a quick trick?”

We four walk on to wait impatiently in line for the hot and soothing chicory elixir and fried, sweet dough.
Some fine sugar rests on my toe at the Cafe du Monde and on our sticky lips too. May we please, do this again?
Why is the air so cold when we so anticipated warmer days in old Dixie?
Always colder when not prepared, wrap up, walk faster, down to the muddy Miss.
Take the rusty ferry to quiet Algiers, away from the drunken disorder.
More foamy cacao cups with some soothing home-made organic sweets ward off the biting wind, and back again.

Hustling man with his banged up tuba saves us a ferry spot.
Let’s find some spicy gumbo thick.
Just say Stanley’s and you will have your fix quick.
Shops of voodoo dolls and suave felt French caps.
Rows of shotgun houses wedged in
Between creole black iron balconies bursting with Boston fern and pots of streaming ivy.

Onto the glittering gold and white lit hotel lobby of the Roosevelt beckons us to the warmth and absinthe.
Then across the crowded street to soak in the bluesy Bonamassa on tour at Nola’s renovated palace.
Treated to his trained and talented fingers on an arsenal of gleaming guitars.
His vintage Led Zeppelin-inspired aging rocker band and fans.
Rock on like there is no tomorrow…
Let us put in our ear plugs before you start.

What else is there to see and do in this bayou town?
Trek to the CBD and tour Ambrose and friends well-funded National WW II museum.
How many soldiers lost?
Half a million GIs reported gone, gone, gone.
Nibble a po’boy at Mothers, off our feed.
Walk the fifteen jumbled city blocks back for a nap and quiet reflection in the Hotel Provincial. Thankful for life.

Time to tour the canal streets.
A must stop at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 to read the names on the above ground plots like Arnaud Jules Beauvais, Dominique You – a patriot and pirate – and Nicholas Girod to list just a few.
Discover a pyramid-shaped tomb; more like an Egyptian than a National Treasure —
But guidebooks tells us this is the future resting place of  a seemingly lost leading man, Sir Nicholas Cage.
His future star power could benefit from a long rest in a quiet space just like this.
But what do we know about the trials leading men must endure? Take a snap.

Next big marching band sounds fill the Market Square.
Green and gold drum lines,
Grambling alumni strutting big stuff.
Pink feathers blur parade view.
Rancid smell of too many performances and nights on the street
This flamingo street dancer is due a nice treat.

Guided history tour by dear Richard
Takes us across Lake Pontchartrain to the winding Old River Road to Laura and Oak Alley.
Fourteen,  three-hundred year old live oaks,  line each side of the entrance stately.
Inhabited by iron-fisted creole women plantation presidents for centuries causes pause to reflect the cruelty of the species.
Melding of the races, the shame of our past, the lessons history teaches each of us. Of our dependent, intertwined lives.
Like the Spanish moss clinging from the mighty oaks, gleaming grey in the southern moonlight.

Ride back through Slidell and by the nuke.
Over the long bridge,
To then dine at Luke just like a spoiled Louis, Dauphin of France.
The rabbit pate with watermelon rind pickles taste divine.
Will pass on the infamous turducken
As the feast not worth the trois poultry pluckin’.

Big Easy gave us a sexy french lick.
Made us forget.
Then sent us back home with sweet memories that are sure to stick.
The four days in the Hotel Provincial.

hotel provincial

Katherine Calahan Murrison

Katherine Calahan Murrison

Katherine E Murrison

She was way ahead of Princess Leia.

She is my maternal grandmother and she meant so much to me that I named my first-born after her out of my memory of her strengths as well as homage to my mother – Grandmother Katherine’s only daughter.  There sure are a mess of Katherine’s in my family tree.

Katherine Calahan Murrison Hovorka was born October 22, 1902 in Abilene, Kansas.  She was the 4th born in a family of eight children.  Her father was a Scottish immigrant who came to Kansas via Canada as a horse trader and trainer.  Her mother left her Pennsylvania birthplace to find domestic work in rural Kansas.  They met, married and raised their family through hard work and self-sufficiency.

Katherine left home after the eighth grade to work her way through high school in Chapman, Kansas, by providing nanny service for a more affluent town family.  After graduation from high school and the subsequent and early death of her mother she was employed as a switchboard operator in Topeka.

In 1923, she met and married Earl Hovorka who was employed at the Topeka Post Office and they moved into their Topeka home, constructed by Earl.  In the next eight years, they had three children, two boys and a girl.  They lived in Topeka surrounded by extended family until 1956, when Earl suffered two severe heart attacks and was forced to retire on disability.  At this time, they moved to Lake Quinault, Washington.  Earl passed away in 1971.  Katherine stayed in Quinault until 1983 when she returned to Topeka.  She moved to the Presbyterian Manor in the 1990’s.

During WWI, she worked at Seymour Packing Company and was later employed by Rosemary Gardens Floral Shop for a number of years.

One of the qualities that made Katherine a very special and memorable person was her great joy and sense of fun.  She neither took herself nor life too seriously but she tempered all the frivolity with a strong sense of responsibility and a belief in hard work.  She could spend all day canning peaches or hoeing in the garden and still have the energy left for card playing into the evening.  Card playing was a life long hobby.  During the depression and later it was an easily available and inexpensive form of fun that provided socializing and relief from boredom.  She liked all kinds of card games.  She was as happy at the bridge table as she was playing fish with the grandchildren and anything in between.  She played canasta, pinochle, hearts, pitch, poker and other card games the names and rules now forgotten.  She wan an inexhaustible card player but it was always for the fun of it and she never lost a friend from it that I know of.

Her second passion was her family.  She always had time for family duties and she took them seriously.  Both her own brother and sisters as well as Earl’s extended family could count on her generosity with her time, her resources, and her home.  During the depression years, nearly every sibling lived in the Topeka home with Katherine for days, weeks, or months at a time dependent on their need for shelter.  Everyone shared equally in the work and the meals.  No one was a freeloader but it was her home, her privacy and her domain that was shared.  During WW II, she opened her home to a neighbor and her two children whose husband was in the service overseas.  Later, another neighbor passed away leaving a teenage girl in need of temporary housing.  Once again, Katherine found room in her life and home for someone in need.  She wasn’t looking for gratitude, she just saw a need and acted.

Finally, she spent her years in Lake Quinault continuing to welcome people to her home and provide them with hospitality and entertainment.  Her house was nearly always full of friends and relatives.  Her grandchildren have many fond memories of fun-filled days with Grandma.  No effort was too great.  She cooked, cleaned, planned and schemed to make days fun and full.  She passed away January 13, 1995 in Topeka Kansas.


Here are all the grandchildren at Lake Quinault on a picnic…I seem to be wandering away from the group.  Picture taken in 1962.



This picture was taken in Topeka, Kansas in 1988, Top:  Katie Hauck (my Mom), Katherine Calahan Murrison Hovorka, and C1 (also a Calahan).

My Expansion of the Rules from “All I really needed to know I learned in Kindergarten”

My Expansion of the Rules from “All I really needed to know I learned in Kindergarten”

  1. Showing up is half the battle – being on time is even better.
  2. When someone gives of their time, talent or a gift, it is always best to send a written thank you note.
  3. Invited over to a home for a special event? Take a small personal gift for the host.
  4. When meeting a couple for the first time, always inquire about both of their occupations not just the dominate one in the relationship (and there is almost always a dominant one in social situations).
  5. Have a hobby and share it with others – learn to cook, sew, garden, dance, write or some other area of interest and do it as good as you can and invest in the tools, equipment and training to do it better each and every year.
  6. Read everything and keep in touch and use the latest technology and social media.
  7. Join a professional organization and volunteer.
  8. Care about children, education, health, environment and world peace.
  9. Take care of yourself but don’t talk about it too much.  Just do it.
  10. Host at least two parties a year in your home.
  11. Buy original artwork as soon as you can and hang it in your front room – it should be the first item you see when you enter your home and it will make you and others happy.
  12. Have a tool box with your own tools for repairing small problems in your home.
  13. Travel as much as possible.
  14. Make your bed every day because it is your sanctuary – try to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night.
  15. Buy good underwear and bras.
  16. Keep the inside of your car clutter free.
  17. Eat more fruits and veggies and avoid fast food except for Sonic.
  18. Know how to cook or bake something special.
  19. Be prepared to order a cocktail when the occasion calls for it and make it your signature drink – you don’t have to even drink it but be prepared with a response when asked in a social situation.  Mine is Vodka Gimlet.  My dad’s was a Rusty Nail.
  20. Don’t be afraid to fire someone but do it with dignity and with reason.  Have evidence of why and be sure you have shared it often and frequently with the person.
  21. Ask for more responsibility at work and help your organization be a success – do it before asked.
  22. Pick up after yourself.
  23. When you need help; don’t be afraid to call on workmates, friends and family.
  24. Take long walks and hot showers/baths – some of your best thinking will happen.
  25. Laugh out loud and don’t take yourself too seriously.  Seriously!



Turkey Day Traditions

Turkey Day Traditions

We are going to the land of gumbo for Thanksgiving —  breaking a long cycle of Fort Worth Thanksgivings in exchange for a holiday in the land of okra, French beignets and rice in the Cajun style of southern Louisiana.  I am ready for a change in the Turkey Day traditions this year and New Orleans is the perfect alternate spot. With the street ripped up on dear old Ashland for extensive and lengthy repairs,  it is a great time to get out of Dodge.  RM did buy a turkey the other day and slipped it sheepishly into the chest freezer.  We just won’t eat the bird on Thanksgiving Day.  We plan on brining and roasting it the first week-end in December when we put up the Christmas tree. We must have leftovers for turkey sandwiches for goodness sakes.

We are having our Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant named Luke on Charles Ave. in the French Quarter owned and operated by chef John Besh. The restaurant is crafted in memory of the grand old Franco-German brasseries that once reigned in New Orleans.  Here are some of the menu items:


paneed pork, heirloom tomatoes,

mushroom-cherry ragout

Saumon demicuit

grilled wild salmon, blue crab, corn

croque-monsieur or

croque-madame et frites

grilled Chisesi ham & Emmenthaler

poulet grand-mère

herb roasted local chicken,

Allan Benton’s bacon, farmers’ market

vegetables & whipped potatoes

canard rôti

roasted duck breast,

confit duck leg, plum glaze

plat lyonnaise

handmade sausages, pommes

lyonnaise, house mustard

Hungry yet?  I’m drooling.  To appreciate South Louisiana foods fully, one must remember that Cajun and Creole cooking are the products of 300 years of continuous sharing and borrowing among the region’s many cultural groups. For example, the French contributed sauces (sauce piquant, étouffée, stews, bisque), sweets (pralines, a modified French confection with pecans instead of the original walnuts), and breads (French bread, beignets or square doughnuts with powdered sugar, and corasse, fried bread dough eaten with cane syrup). The Spanish added jambalaya (a spicy rice dish probably from the Spanish paella).

Africans contributed okra, barbecue, and deep-fat frying and reinforced the Spanish preference for hot spices and soups. Germans contributed sausages (andouille and boudin) and “Creole” or brown mustard.   Hauck and Hovorka clan members love our sausages as good decendents of Germany and Czech Republic or also lovingly known as the “big boned people”. We are hardy, resilient and food is deeply tied to how we express love in our heritage and traditions.  I tried to make homemade sauerkraut last week-end which was a total disaster four days later.  Did anyone smell it fermenting on Ashland?  The cat and RM were going crazy with the acidic odor so had to throw it out.

Caribbean influence, in New Orleans cuisine,  is seen in the bean and rice dishes of red beans and rice and congri (crowder peas and rice). Native Americans contributed filé and a fondness for corn bread. Many of these foods are generally known, but far fewer are aware of lesser-known food delicacies in Louisiana as the prairie Cajun langue boureé (stuffed beef tongue) or chaudin (sausage-stuffed pork stomach)

Food in Louisiana is relished and the standards for mere adequate preparation are much higher in this region.  You need to arrive in NOLA hungry and ready to taste the melding of 300 years of food from a rich variety of cultures and traditions.  Everyone has a favorite restaurant in NOLA that they wish to recommend to friends.  What is yours?


The Holiday Cookie Monster

The Holiday Cookie Monster


This week, the big build up to the holiday season is officially upon us. It’s like a huge drum roll sounded off this week and the holidays officially opened for business.  The poor letter carriers’ bags are bulging with mail order magazines – how did I get on so many mailing lists? Most likely due to my recent Amazon Prime membership.  The retail stores are stocking up with the dreaded fruit cake supplies in anticipation of our baking needs for the multitude of holiday parties and gatherings as well as inventoried walls of blow up grinches and elves at Lowes and Home Depot to decorate our yard and to make our homes festive and welcoming to friends and family. Do those inflatables creep you out a bit like they do me?  The pretty and tasteful decorations are ablaze at University Park Village in anticipation of another big buying season at The Apple Store (yes, I too want a new iPad) and the other popular stores at this high traffic shopping center. It takes an extra 20 minutes at lunch as we inch up and down the area streets filled with cars carrying lunch time errand runners. I saw my first holiday themed commercial on TV last night and Pinterest is littered with DIY holiday projects.  For me, this time of year is special for all of the traditional reasons but also for my love of making and baking cookies.  Don’t they smell divine? And yummy warm out of the oven?

One year, all of us at work participated in a cookie baking contest and we had to taste each and every one to determine which one was the yummiest.  It turned out the only man in the office was the winner.  Another year, some of us in the neighborhood joined up in a cookie exchange that reaped mounds of cookies to share.  What will this year bring?  Most assuredly…cookies.  If you have a recipe to share, please post as I am ready for the wonderful season of cookie baking and sharing and fellowship with friends and family.   Too early to put up the tree, RM?

I was just tidying up.

I was just tidying up.

RM makes home-made pizza once a week – sometimes on Friday, sometimes on Saturday, and if not one of those nights, then definitely for Sunday supper.  A few weeks ago, I cleaned out my nest of expanding cookbooks by throwing away many of the little pamphlets that accompany the various kitchen gadgets including the only one that, unbeknownst to me, contained RM’s favorite pizza dough recipe. I was just tidying up. I thought he had memorized the recipe in his engineer brain by now but evidently that is not so true.  I thought I had found the lost recipe online but ever since he started using the new recipe (not the one out of the tattered manual) the dough hasn’t been quite right.  I think I threw him off his game or the man is self sabotaging. The cookbook/user’s manual is the one that comes with the Cuisinart food processor.  If any one has such manual, please see if it has a recipe for pizza dough in it and please overnight it to me.  I am always throwing away something that I see little value in to later discover that to RM it is equivalent to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

If we get back on our pizza game, RM made a beautiful wooden serving piece with an engraved magnolia blossom on it.  For now, we will be using it as a cheese platter.

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