My work days were spent at the house learning Drywall 101.

Patient teachers instructed corner work. Exposed corners, like those around doorless openings and windows became my primary work. I like it better than filling drywall screw depressions in the ceiling. (I don’t think I’m cut out for ceiling work.) The final day they put me in the closet.

No — I didn’t mess up that badly. But they thought it was a good place to practice interior corners. I think other people practiced skills in this closet. We ran two large fans in the house – one aimed down each hall. Neither stirred a drop of air where I stood on my short ladder.

It’s New Orleans. It rained. The sun came out.

I think I found the warmest place in the house!

Another portion of our group worked on a house much closer to complete. Their first, and largest task, was to stain and finish the living room floor. You could tell how involved each of them became the first day when they returned to camp with smudges and swipes of dark brown stain on clothing and skin.

The clear coat they added the other days didn’t stand out in the crowd. Then they went on down a list of things to be done – shower surround, trim and quarter round. Soon the homeower can clip the price tags from the light fixtures and move in.

Welcome patient owner.


Reduce.   Reuse.   Recycle.

You see that trio of words frequently. Good advice, each and every one of them.

But what do you do when your item is a brick building with a fire damaged roof? Not a private residence. Not a commerical building with a private owner.

Problems abounded for the small group of faithful church members. What to do when the problem is large and the people so small?

An idea was presented. God watered. People worked. They studied the needs of the neighborhood. Found talent they didn’t know they had. Preserved some of the century plus history.

The result?

A coffee house serving breakfast and lunch items nestled against a university school of medicine and associated hospital. Six days a week they serve the community food for the body.

Saturday evening and Sunday morning food for the soul is offered in the form of worship service in the same historic, casual space.

Come, sit, rest, eat, learn, and worship together.

Rest & Refresh
Body & Soul

Patio Tales

Evenings at camp are for relaxing.

We return from our day of labor hot and dirty. I park my plaster dusted shoes in a box and head for the shower. Supper follows, then devotion, and free time. I could work on the puzzle over on the table. No, my mind doesn’t need a challenge.

Flip. Flop. Ooops! The tiny step on the wooden slat walkway trips me. Literally. So much for a quiet, unnoticed entrance to the group gathered on the “patio”. Oustide of the men’s bunkroom they’ve claimed a space at the foot of the metal stairway to the upstairs – unused this week. I find a place to sit, sip my soda, and listen.

“What’s that?”     “Where?”     “Over there, on the outside window ledge?”

“Looks like a possum.” Two of our group go over to investigate.

The critter ambles along the ledge away from them pausing to look into the bunkroom used by the Catholic boys this week. He was a small one — well, maybe half grown. Moved the fastest I’ve seen one go — but then, they aren’t known for speed.

Our conversation returns to the topic at hand. Which one was that? The recent sports results? Possible solutions to problems that arose on the projects? How many oysters to buy for take home?


Growing Balloon

A plant that blows bubbles?

No, it’s slower, more measured, almost sedate.

Is that how it gained the name “balloon flower”?

Three years ago I took a chance on a plant. I’m always an optimist the day I do my spring excursion to the local garden shop. It helps that I define success with a plant as getting it to live, not necessarily blossom or produce fruit. I’m sure it was classed as an annual, something I seldom get adventurous with.

It started green. Grew a little. Produced one white blossom.

Well, that was okay. I got what I paid for.

Imagine a little surprise the next spring when it poked out. Well, I’m not one to turn down a gift – or a resedding annual – so I left it alone aside from a little water when I tended the neighbors. It grew larger than the year before. And now the process has repeated. More blossoms in early July than any previous year.

I’ll take it. I like plants that repeat, whether from seed or deep roots. The buds swell, stretching from green, to pale green, to white flower that lasts two or three days.

First of several.

Regional Fare

What’s for supper?

It’s Monday. It’s New Orleans.  Red beans and rice!

According to notes in a half-century old cookbook the tradition comes from a pot of red beans put on to simmer all day while the housewife went about doing laundry on Monday.

Sampling the local favorites in this city is a delicious way to progress through the week. Tuesday a treat appears at lunchtime. One of our number hunted up a seafood shack favored by locals and gives us a choice of fried catfish or a crab cake. Yummmmm!

Gumbo anyone? Seconds? The camp cook makes one with just enough heat to be Cajun and mild enough for visiting Northern palates.

Oysters! I’ll take mine cooked, thank you. Charbroiled? Yes, that’s cooked. Delicious with spices and Parmesan cheese. Ohhhh! Almost burned the mouth on the first one. Sip on the frozen local beverage of choice to quench the fire. Or take a bite of fresh French bread.

Shrimp! Grilled with Cajun bar-b-que (or something of that sort) so good that with the conversation and another local beverage the entire platter shrinks to tails and broken shells. Others at the table eat crab, turtle soup, and Jambalaya.

It’s our final evening. We eat, laugh, tease our lone teen when she passes on turtle, oysters, and other fare she considers exotic. (My opinion – I could get a turkey club at home.)

Pedestrians move along Bourbon Street in intermittent rain. The wedding procession with bridal party, band, and guest waving white handkerchiefs is long gone. Elvis is out there somewhere. Also a young man dressed and painted all in silver. Music seeps out of the clubs as we lesiurely go back to the vans. Costumed women invite customers. Some of the clubs even admit women!

Ah! The food. New Orleans is a city to be tasted!!!

May I have mine grilled?

Reaching Out

A garden plant with a mind?

Never, in any of the biology classes, in any of the various classes of plant life from single cell to complex, did we discuss a brain.

Tell that to my pole beans. Perhaps they are strictly in self-presevation mode. After all, they are seed left from a previous year and this is the only “hill” that germinated.

They grow faster than a teen-age boy. Climbing the support rod inches each day. Then where do they go?

I imaging them thinking. Where can I cling?

One day I’d wager they extended their tendrils out and followed the sun around.

Then after careful consideration. On at least their second circuit and a few days after the photograph, they grasp onto the tomato cage and entwine over and under the top rim.

Reaching out for support.

Double Shotgun – An Introduction

The floorplan – not the firearm.

Accumulated through the years from several different sources I was well aware that a “shotgun” house was a popular floor plan in New Orleans. They still held a few surprises for me.

We drove down the residental street Monday morning for the first time with our guide from the camp telling us we were going to a double shotgun. I didn’t know they came in duplex size. And I was busy looking at the other houses – repaired, broken, vacant lots abandoned or maintained –  huge variety in the half mile or so we drove.

We entered through the left kitchen. The halves are mirror images of each other and when the re-construction is complete one long solid wall will run the entire length. The week we worked there the kitchens were “joined” if you can use that term to describe open studs. Planning preceeded moving a ladder and some other large items from one side to the other.

Dark. We could hardly tell the function of the rooms. The primary reason for this was the large pieces of plywood set to block each window at the end of the workday. Tools and supplies out of sight are less tempting.

The other surprise that was pleasant in this house was the size. My notion had been that shotgun was a small house, no more than two bedrooms with one bath. But so much for pre-conceived ideas.

From the front each side of the duplex will have: living room, kitchen with laundry, full bath opening to long main hall, master bedroom with full bath, second bedroom, third bedroom with patio door to rear.

Time to file the floorplan under good, practical, and wouldn’t mind living in.

Gated shared front entrance of Double Shotgun

Watering Skirt

All the best transplants wear them. A great seasonal accessory.

Green is so stylish. Coordinates with my leaves. And for my shorter cousins they have a low-profile tan model. Blends in with most mulch.

A clever plant lover must have come up with the idea. Or perhaps a human merely weary of transporting water my way my more convential methods.

Either way — I’m thrilled to my roots.

Fill up my “skirt” with water from hose, portable tank, or any other logical source. Then for the next six to eight hours I sip at my pleasure, get all my tender rootlets refreshed, and will be better able to withstand the next several days of summer.


Settling In

We’re going to be late for supper!

Thanks to cell phones our group leader calls ahead and alerts the church camp that is our destination. We’re in luck. It’s a small group this week. Be ready to grab a plate when we walk in the door.

The positive side of our last portion of journey. The driver’s been here before. He knows the exits to take and we find the camp without taking any scenic tours of New Orleans. We tumble out of the vans and make straight for the dining hall.

Hot food. Ice water. Introductions.

We’ll rattle around in the place with echos as company. A tiny staff, a few volunteers that arrived solo, our small group of adults, and a couple of dozen high school boys and their leaders from Philadelphia stay this week in accommodations for 301.

Our group is assigned bunk rooms across the hall from each other – five men in one, three ladies in the other. No problem staking claim to a lower bunk. Now how did they plan this? The messages on the raw wood beds in the men’s room all end with female names. While the bunk above me has been signed by “Spencer”? The shower room rules are explained. Our assigned chores are defined.

To keep costs at a minimum the residents take turns assisting with meal serving, cleaning the common areas, and carrying the trash to the dumpster. Easy work when many hands pitch in.

Unpack. Gather for devotions. A little visiting in the lounge while one of our number selects a group puzzle for the week. It seems like a reasonable choice – 1000 pieces of various shades and shapes of chocolate. And we have an entire week. We turn in early, tomorrow will be full of more new things.