Sunday, July 26, 2009

Oak Alley Plantation

Yesterday we journeyed to Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana. In the early 1700's a settler claimed land from an original royal grant for his dwelling and defined its entrance with an alley of live oaks in two rows leading to the Mississippi River. In this photo my back is to the Mississippi. While today the levee is built up, back then it was only 5 feet high you could see the river from the house. There are 28 oak trees, 14 on each side, stretching out for a 1/4 mile. They are incredible.

The roots on those 28 trees are gigantic, poised above the ground like old arthritic fingers. We were told on our tour that the oak trees have a life expectancy of around 600 years, so these trees have around 300 years of life left in them!

Around the back of the house, more oak trees were planted by the most recent owners, Andrew & Josephine Stewart, who acquired it in 1925. Several of these trees have these sweeping limbs, just taunting all the young visitors who want to climb them...if it weren't for the signs forbidding you to! Mrs. Stewart died in 1972 and the management of the plantation was placed in the hands of a nonprofit organization, which opened the plantation to the public.

Aunt Penny was still visiting from West Monroe and she brought her great niece Karrah. Karrah was visiting for the summer from Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania. As we waited to enter the mansion for the tour, I couldn't help but envision Scarlett and the Tarleton Twins in the opening scene of Gone with the Wind.

In between the period of time when the setter planted the oaks and when the Stewart's purchased the plantation, several families claimed Oak Alley as their home. Most notably, as we learned from our adorable Cajun Plantation Guide Whitlee (seen below), was Jacques Telesphore Roman and his young bride Celina. Jacques and Celina had been married on June 14th, 1834 and in 1836 they purchased the plantation.

Jacques Telesphore and Celina plunged with enthusiasm into the project of building their plantation home. There would be no corners cut ... only the best would do. Their home took over two years to complete.

The most notable part of the house, aside from the majestic oaks towering outside, were the 28 classic columns surrounding the house. The columns measure 8 feet in circumference and are solid brick. All the materials used in the construction of the home were found or manufactured on the plantation with the exception of the marble for the floors and fireplaces and the slate for the roof, both of which were imported.

The house was designed for maximum protection from the fierce summers of this area. The veranda extends approximately 13 feet from the walls, keeping the home in shade most of the day. The tall windows and doors face each other for cross ventilation and the ceilings are 12 feet high. Most important are the 16 inch thick brick walls throughout the house.

Improvements and additions continued through the end of the decade and the kitchen facilities were finally completed in 1841. Furnishings and interior fittings had been arriving continuously by steamboat, and special care was given to the gardens. The final result was a plantation home to be envied by the most discerning of the well-to-do sugar planters of the day. Legend has it that Celina Roman proudly christened her new home "Bon Sejour" (pleasant sojourn), but travelers on the Mississippi, impressed by the avenue of mighty oaks, called it "Oak Alley", and so it remained!

We were not allowed to photograph anything in the home, so the following pictures are images that I've found on the Internet.

As we begun our tour we were ushered into the living room. I had a hard time understanding Whitlee and her Cajun accent, but I did learn about the gold convex mirror on the far wall and the courting candle.

The convex mirrow was used so that father's could see all corners of the room when a young suitor was courting his daughter.

The courting candle was used in the 1800s, if a young man would come to visit a young lady. The father of the young lady would set the candle at a height he felt appropriate for the young man to stay. When the candle burnt down to the top of the metal, it was time for the young man to leave. For example, if the Father liked the young man he would set the candle all the way to the top, but if he did not like the young man he would set it much like it is in the picture so he would have to leave soon.

This is Oak Alley's Dining room. Notice the large, harp-like object hanging in the middle of the table. This is the ceiling fan and it is attached to that string you see in the top right corner of the photo. A young slave boy would sit in the corner of the dining room and swing the fan during meals to keep the guest cool.

This room is called the sick room. After someone died they would place black netting over the mirrors so the spirits would not be trapped. See the rolling pin on the bed? Each day the servants would roll out all the mattresses in the house. This process would take hours and no one was allowed onto the beds again until it was time to sleep.

This is the Master Bedroom. The bed is a pineapple post bed. The Pineapple was a sign of welcome. Guest were often presented with a cut pineapple when they arrived. Yet, if you woke up one morning to find an uncut pineapple placed at the end of your bed, it was a polite way of saying you had over stayed your welcome. You should take your pineapple and go.

Also in the master bedroom was the only piece of furniture that had belonged to Jacques and Celina. It was a gorgeous bassinet and my favorite piece in the whole house.

The house tour was over before we knew it and then we were free to walk the grounds. We bought mint juleps and lemon juleps and lemonade and strolled a bit through the grounds before leaving for home.

I can't wait for Penny to come back for a visit. We'll be making plans to visit more of the plantations in the area!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

More Fondant Fun!

So, when Blaire saw my fondant cake she wanted to make her own. This book I bought has so many great things that we can make with fondant and other sweet stuff and she's a pretty talented kid. I knew she could do something creative.

Instead of cake though, we made cupcakes. Severely deformed cupcakes. This cupcake is a product of my ancient oven. The one that is in need of replacement. BAD.

Duane's sister Penny came down to visit and we enlisted her talents too!

Blaire worked diligently on her cupcakes and churned out some really cute ones.

These are just some of the adorable little cupcakes they both made!

Blaire was the adventurous one and actually ate one of the cupcakes. I still haven't actually eaten anything with fondant on it, although I have nibbled a bit to see what it tastes like. Her verdict was, after lots of chewing, that fondant is.... chewy! But good.

I only decorated one cupcake. Some of Bri's friends think she looks like Nemo, so I made her a Nemo cupcake. It was time consuming and when you look close it looks like it was my first time making shapes, but I loved it! And Bri liked it too!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My First Fancy Cake

We've found a new show that we love to watch! It's Ace of Cakes and it's on the Food Network. It's all about the awesome cakes that the fantastically talented team at Charm City Cakes create.

I'm sort of a creative person and figured that I could make a cool cake too! Probably not as cool as their cakes, but something somewhat cool. So I started picking up supplies this week and with the thought that I wouldn't have to make the whole cake all at once, I started.

On Tuesday all I did was make a 6 inch and an 8 inch Devils Food cake. Wednesday all I made was a 6 inch and an 8 inch Golden Butter flavored cake. Wouldn't want to wear myself out early in the process!

I should mention that since this was a practice cake I didn't have any intention of eating it or feeding it to anyone, so I could take as long as I wanted.

I think I frosted the the 6 inch cakes on Thursday and the 8 inch Cakes on Friday with a little bit of buttercream frosting. Again...didn't want to wear myself out. And I also had no clue yet about what my design would be.

On Saturday I actually got the fondant out! I used gel colors and made the white fondant, and also my hands, pink and covered the two 6 inch layers. With my hands already pink I didn't want to add another color to their prettiness, so I went with plain white fondant for the 8 inch layers. It was a whole lot easier than I thought it would be.

Finally on Sunday I decorated it with cute little flowers. I had envisioned cute circles and stripes and lots of colors, but this is what I ended up with.

And I was pretty proud of my pretty little cake.

Can't wait to see what I end up with next time.

And maybe people will even get to eat it!

What did you do this week that was adventurous?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Happy Sweet 16 Brianna!

Today is Bri's 16th Birthday!! If she was in town I would have made this cake for her. But she's in Gulf Shores on vacation. I suppose that's a good thing since I don't think I could make this cake!!

Bri was 11 years old when I met her, less than 2 weeks shy of 12. This is what she looked like. And those hand gestures...typical Bri. Still. She probably couldn't talk if we tied her hands behind her back :)

13 years old! This was when she made oatmeal lace cookies. And used red food coloring, instead of vanilla extract. And couldn't figure out why her cookies were red. She is soooo dingy. One of the many reasons we love her.

When Bri turned 14 Rachel brought her birthday cake! Rachel is the girls stepsister. She gets to hang with them during the weeks that we don't. I wonder if Rachel gets to be my Step Step Daughter now? That would be awesome, because we love Rachel! And not just because she makes cake :)

And here she is when she was turning 15. And when her dad really started not wanting her to leave the house. Ever.

And finally, 3 weeks before turning 16. Sometimes I wish we could just work some magic and keep her like this forever. Growing up way to fast. But we couldn't be prouder of her. She's bright and funny and sweet and beautiful. And we love her. Very much!

On this day we wish you all the wonders in the world. All the happiness in your eyes. All the stars in the sky. On this day may each moment be like a wonderful dream. On this day believe in your wishes. As we all wish you the very best in life. Happy 16th Birthday Brianna!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes

This book has always been a favorite of mine.

It's got so much truth to it.

The box part anyway.

Sure, I've never personally seen a cat that plays the violin.

Or one that flew an aeroplane.

But I've definitely never seen a cat pass up a box.

Especially this cat.

Oops! "Not very well hidden are you, Vinnie."

And I wasn't the only one that found him.

And then there are cats that just don't get it.

He's always been a little slow.
But he sure looks comfy.
The end.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Familymoon Part I - The Drive to Tennessee

We had planned to leave the house at 3am on June 22nd. That was a Monday. On Sunday night we put off packing until late so we decided we'd get an extra hour of sleep and get up at 3am, leave at 4am. It was actually Duane's idea and I couldn't have been happier. Even though I would be able to sleep as soon as we got on the road.

We had bought this really cool cover for the bed of the truck and it was lockable! So we were able to pack the truck the night before. All we had to do was get up and go! And that's what we did. We had a 10 1/2 hour drive ahead of us.

First stop (with the exception of breakfast, lunch and bathroom stops) was Sevierville (pronounced severe), TN. This is where the county courthouse is that we needed to pick up our Marriage Licence.

The girls slept for a good bit of the morning but woke up bright and cheery and ready to drive some more!

Some more bright and cheery than others.

We finally made it to Tennessee!

Except after you hit the border you still have about a 3 hour drive to get to the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area. We stopped for lunch at Hardee's. This is the equivalent to Carl's Jr. and I hadn't had a Western Bacon Cheeseburger in over 5 years. Used to be my favorite burger, but we don't have Carl's Jr or Hardee's in Louisiana. Of course I got my favorite burger and you know what? It just wasn't the same. Guess my taste buds have changed. Something else changed while we were in Hardees. THE TIME! Apparently there is a time difference between Tennessee and Louisiana that we weren't aware of. That meant we had one less hour to get to the courthouse before it closed at 5:30. And we had been planning on getting there at 4:30. So this meant we would be getting there right when it closed and if we got there a minute late we would have to drive an hour back out to Sevierville the next day...our wedding day!

The courthouse in Sevierville was in the town square and it was so pretty. Pretty brick building and paths through the grass. Trees and statues. Just very pretty. I wish I had taken a photo but we were in a big hurry to get in and pick up our license. We had just minutes to spare. And then their printers decided they were done for the day and didn't want to print out our license! After about 30 minutes and several phone calls our clerk was able to get our certificates and we were on our way.

We assumed that our GPS system would take us through Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg before getting to Cosby, which is where our cabin was. Nope. Our Tom Tom decided he wanted us to take the scenic trail. And I am so happy he did. We went through the hills, twisting one lane roads and lots of trees. It reminded me of my old home. Especially this covered bridge. I wanted to stop and eat pancakes..but I didn't see any firemen.

We drove for miles. Past old barns.

And horses.

and more horses.

And I still couldn't get a picture of Bri. I did get a picture of her cute little pinky finger though! Isn't it sweet :)

I took a lot of pictures out the window. I wonder how much I missed because I was looking though the tiny little viewfinder? Lots I bet. But I was so happy with what I did see.

We passed over this river and even followed along side of it for a while. After such a long drive I just wanted to stick my toes in it. But we pressed on.

Everything was so green. And the driveways were these steep, winding roads. Another memory of California. My mom can attest to the fact that every friend I ever had as a child lived up a steep, winding road. I'll love her forever for driving me up those roads.

The GPS said we were getting close to our destination. We had been driving forever on this back road. And then we ran into this:

And we all groaned about having to drive all the way back and find the other way to go. But we had no choice and since it had been such a pretty trip, it wouldn't be so bad.

But still! We were ready to get to the cabin. And we needed to get ourselves in front of the TV so we could watch our LSU Tigers Baseball Team. They were playing in the College World Series. Just them and Texas were left. We weren't about to miss it.

And then we saw Copeland Rd. And we took the chance that it might take us around the road outage and get us to our cabin.

So we drove down Copeland Road, crossed Copeland Creek and it took us out to Hooper Hwy. Which is where our cabin was. How appropriate that I had to take a trip down Copeland road to get where I was supposed to be. Sounds like my real life.

A life that I'm so very excited about. With this waiting for you, wouldn't you be?