WE SAY KEEP IT FRESH KEEP IT POSITIVE
Christmas Under the Stars
Viisiits with Santa & Mrs. . Claus in the Gaazebo o on Deec. 2-3 & 9-10, 6:00-8:30 pm
Holiday Lights & Decorations • Santa’s Magical Mailbox • Big Santa • Slidell’s Nativity
Life-size Christmas Cottages featuring the NEW Nightmare Before Christmas Cottage!
Vince Vance and the Valiants will perfrom a free Christmas concert in Heritage Park. The King of Christmas will perfrom all your favorite holiday songs, including his hit perennial song, “All I Want For Christmas Is You”
Come join us in Olde Towne Slidell as festively decorated golf carts parade through the streets. Free to participate. If you would like to be a part of this parade, please call (985) 646-4375 for more information.
Hoolidaay Concert with the Noorthshhore Community Orchesttra Saturday, Dec. 17 • 7 pm • Free Admission
Slideell’s Bayou Christtmas
Heritage Park • Event: Dec. 15-18, 22-23 • 6-9 pm
Light displays: Nov. 14 - Jan. 3 • Free Admission Features pictures with Santa, rides, concessions and more!
Christmas Under the Stars is brought to you by the City of Slidell’s Dept. of Cultural & Public Affairs, the Commission on the Arts and the 2022 Cultural Sponsors: Renaissance • $5,000 Sponsors:
Baroque • $2,500 Sponsor: Silver Slipper Casino
Neoclassical • $1,000 Sponsors: Councilman Bill & Laura Borchert • Lori’s Art Depot
Lowry-Dunham, Case & Vivien Insurance Agency
Impressionism • $500 Sponsors: P. David Carollo, Attorney-at-Law • CiCi’s Pizza • Slidell Mayor Greg Cromer State Representative Mary DuBuisson, District 90 • Roberta’s Cleaners • Slidell Historic Antique Association
Twelve years ago, I made my first appearance in Slidell Magazine when I received a call from Kendra Maness (who I did not know at the time) about being the featured artist in the 4th issue of what was then called Northshore’s Slidell Guide Magazine.
My friend Adam Sambola had recommended me. I didn’t make the cover of that issue, but there was a great write up about me.
Four years later, I finally got my first cover with one of my Mona Lisa Moonpie drawings. Five years after that, I scored my second cover with another one of my Moonpie drawings.
My friend Kendra then offered me the December 2019 cover; she wanted something for Christmas.This is when I came up with my idea to do a salute to Norman Rockwell and his Saturday Evening Post covers.
This newest cover is titled “Bookends”. It features all of my kids (furry and non-furry). It also features the beginning of my Rockwell series (the framed image on the wall) and the end of it (the magazine my son is holding).
Like the last of my series, this cover reimagines one of Rockwell’s Four Freedoms paintings. However, instead of parents putting the children to bed, my children are putting the dogs to bed. It’s a passing of the torch as the boys have gotten older and they can no longer hear the bells of Santa’s sleigh, but the dogs still can. Thanks to Kendra for 10 covers. I look forward to 10 more.M.H.Reed
Michael’s tenth cover makes him the most featured Cover Artist for Slidell Magazine. We are humbled and grateful that he shares his talents and friendship with us!
This month’s cover is M. H. Reed’s version of the iconic Norman Rockwell cover, “Freedom from Fear.” Rockwell did a series of these paintings, collectively titled “The Four Freedoms.” M.H. Reed used his Rockwell tribute series to highlight his family; every painting in the series pictures his two sons.
Note: This article is for mature audiences only! No, not because there is anything that might make you blush, but because it is about a concept that may confuse young people. How do parents explain that there are many Santas? How do they all look and act so differently? Well, hold tight and you will be able to explain this, and many other things for the first time, based on Santa’s own words. But, parents need to understand it first, so please read on privately!
In lieu of my usual opening quote, I will reference a few terms and phrases from “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clark Moore.
It is majorly exciting to get a chance to interview Santa and his wife, Mrs. Claus for the first time in my life! It was quite warm when we met, so they did not come in full uniform. But as expected, their fashions focused on Christmas red. And, yes, Santa’s hair and beard are real! I was lucky to catch them in between trips around the world, and elven toy production, which would soon be in full swing. The couple were in for a brief respite in October, as their sleigh was in for repairs, providing a much needed visit
to Slidell and Pearl River, their home away from the North Pole.
Haven’t we all noticed that Santa and Mrs. Claus are always distinguished, mature adults? Hence the silver hair and beard? The ramifications of this imply but one thing. Santa verified my suspicions that Lester B. Hilby had quite a different life before he was able to fully become Santa. And of course, the couple’s life together was quite different before Liz Hilby was able to be known as Mrs. Claus. But one thing remained constant. The Hilbys were always a jovial couple, predisposed to become far more in their golden years.
Lester was not born in the North Pole, but was actually born in Biloxi, Mississippi. His father, Joseph Hilby, Jr.,was in the Coast Guard, so they moved around a good bit as Lester was growing up. Once his father retired, he moved the family back to Long Beach, Mississippi. With a twinkle in his eye, Lester admitted, “Dad didn’t make a lot of money in the military, but they always pinched pennies to make sure we had a good Christmas! And I always loooved Christmas!”
Liz was born in NOLA, one of five
children. Liz remembered her childhood Christmases with excitement and that the floor was covered with gifts. Mr. Bingle holds a special place in her heart. When the music played and he flew across the TV screen, she knew Christmas was near! There was the first prerequisite, check!
Lester’s father was often overseas, and Lester’s mother, Antoinette “Nancy” Hilby, made sure their three sons and daughter were always busy and working toward a goal. As it turned out, all four children were trained in the military. Team work is prerequisite number two for the leader of the elves! As to pre-requisite number three, instead of herding reindeer, Lester’s animal husbandry needed to be more practical for our rural South. So, he and his oldest brother, Emery, started working at The Chicken Farm in Covington. As he explained, “It turned out we were quite good at taking care of the chickens, well enough that they produced a lot of eggs. At the end of the summer, when I climbed on the schoolbus with my younger brother for the first time in Louisiana, that’s when I met my future wife. I was at Covington High and she was at Wayne’s Lee Road Middle School,” he beamed.
This sounded like a good story, and I was expecting a romantic first impression. As you can imagine, Lester’s little brother, Wayne, was nervous on his first day, and wanted to stay with Lester. The handsome older brother ordered him to stay up front, per the bus driver’s rule. Liz apparently thought he was speaking to her, and said, “Hey, you can’t talk to me like that!” Once the misunderstanding was explained, she answered, “Well, you shouldn’t talk like that to your brother, either!” Of course, the future Santa was doing the right thing, but the future Mrs. Claus was encouraging him to do so in a much kinder and gentler way. Yes, she would make a perfect Mrs. Claus. Prerequisite number four?
Lester moved to Folsom to finish high school, so the couple rarely saw each other. It would remain this way for some time. He announced, “I went to my high school graduation on Friday, and on Monday, I was in boot camp in California for the Coast Guard, just like my father. Actually, that’s about the time I think she really fell in love, when I came home from boot camp. I went into boot camp weighing 144 pounds. I came out of boot camp weighing 187 pounds with a 38 inch chest and 32 inch waist. I had trimmed down to 2% body fat. I was just a rock!” He rubbed his Santa belly, adding, “That was then, this is now.”
But his current weight befits Santa, and without it he would have no dimples, right? I think it is pre-requisite number five.
Liz corrected him, “No, I fell in love with you when you went to church and you were behind me. I heard your voice singing the worship song and that was when I fell in love with you at Mount Zion Baptist Church!” Brownie points to Liz!
After boot camp, Lester made his way to Virginia for school. “My test scores qualified me for any school of my choice. My father was a diesel mechanic, so I became a diesel mechanic. As
soon as I finished the training, I got transferred to the US Coast Guard Cutter Northwind.” He and his best friend, nicknamed “Biggun,” had met in machinery tech school and were both assigned to the ship.
“My first deployment was to the North Pole, and I had just turned 18 years old. We spent a month out there while they were doing scientific research. But we couldn’t get off the ship because back then there were so many polar bears.”
Okay folks, fate working again? I’m not making any of this up.
For his second deployment, he was sent to the South Pole. His mission was to help break the ice with the bow of his ship, without damaging it, in order to keep supplies coming in. Smiling at the memories, Lester relayed, “I lived down there for two months and it was a great experience. I did a few things
while there that most people would think was crazy. I sunbathed on the flight deck of my ship while it was 50 degrees below zero. It was great to see the sun. I never learned to drink coffee though, so I survived on packets of hot chocolate. We were able to get off the ship at the South Pole, and penguins became my favorite animal. Have you ever seen the movie ‘March of the Penguins’? I actually walked amongst 30,000 to 40,000 penguins. It was so amazing! “
Glancing over at Mrs. Claus, he confessed, “I missed her 18th birthday while I was at the South Pole. We were staying in touch all this time as friends, but I wouldn’t date her until she was 18. Instead, I wired her roses, but they arrived in terrible shape. Her mother joked that they must have come straight from the South Pole, and luckily bought some replacements. We didn’t date until I came back home from that trip.”
His mission was deemed to be “severe duty.” It seems that their ship ran into a massive storm, and the bow was underwater, so they were slowly sinking. Lester had to try to pump fuel from the bow to midship all the while the storm was raging. The 25 foot swells were rolling the ship from side to side. At some point, he was almost washed overboard, but found himself hanging by the chain for the gangway by his knees. Somehow, he managed to pull himself up, and went down to shower off the fuel spill. Then he promptly went back to work to help save his ship and everyone on board. After the ordeal, Lester was transferred while the ship underwent repairs. Naturally, he requested to be transferred to this area for his next duty. Guess what…New Orleans was his destiny! So, he came to visit Liz and her family. They went to a New Year’s Eve party with a group of friends, but their official first date was on her 19th birthday, the following night.
went by before we were married. But remember…we knew each other for five years! We got married exactly on our six month anniversary of dating. The ceremony was in the front yard of my parent’s place in Bogalusa. I had a 20’ x 20’ concrete patio poured in the backyard, and we walked around to the reception. Then we drove to our honeymoon in Macon, Georgia where I introduced Liz to my best friend from the service, Biggun.”
After getting out of the Coast Guard, Lester went to HVAC training at Slidell Vo-Tech school on Bayou Liberty Road. Remember that place? I was surprised to learn that the Hilby’s have lived in the Slidell area for 43 years in between stints to Santa’s Workshop every year. His uncle used to own an electrical business on Front Street, and lived just west of the city limits. That’s how Lester and Liz discovered Slidell. Remember, Lester had been stationed in New Orleans, but they did not want to live in the city. He explained, “I wanted to be among the trees and near the smaller water fronts. One of my duties was Search and Rescue, so I had the elevation maps for the whole area, and we picked a place that was high and dry. Slidell was a pretty area and everybody was so friendly.”
Meanwhile, the Hilby’s had two children, a daughter named Christina, and a son named Lester, Jr. “It surprised me that neither one wanted anything to do with the military,” Lester said. “Our daughter works for the Deputy Sheriff, and our son is a school teacher. When the kids were in 2nd and 3rd grade, Liz decided to get a job as a paraprofessional working with special needs children. And Charlotte…this is when it all started!”
He looked over at his wife with a special twinkle in his eye. “So I was at work and she called me forlornly lamenting that her students would not get to go see Santa and do Christmas pictures with him that day like the other kids. So… I went down to that dance costume store off Gause Blvd. and I bought a wig, a beard, a Santa outfit, and a fake belly because I didn’t have this (he pointed down). I had black hair, no beard, no belly. But I went into the school and I became Santa Claus for all the specialty classes. And then the next year I went to the kindergarten classes as well. Pretty soon I was going up to third grade classes. Yeah, it was just my destiny!”
Because he missed the ships and the Coast Guard adventures as he settled down, the couple began taking cruises and traveling every year. Merry old St. Nick gets to see the world from his sleigh. But he really wanted to experience the areas he saw from above, and to share them with his wife. They smiled together as he counted, “So far, I think we’ve been on 20 different cruises! And, of course, we give the kids on the ships postcards of Santa and Mrs. Claus that say ‘Enjoy your cruise!’”
I wondered if these kids on the ship were surprised to see a Santa that looked differently from the Santas they may
myself doesn’t mean ‘me first.’ It means ‘me too.’”
know in their hometown or country. Once again, Santa’s beard shook as he laughed and reassured me, “We are a brotherhood of Santas that work together to make Christmas happen for as many boys and girls as we can find. That’s something little kids seem to accept better than the older ones, and certainly more than adults. One Santa and Mrs. Claus just can’t do it all anymore. I call myself the Pearl River Santa, since we live there much of the year. We have a lot of Mall Santas, and Santas in towns across the globe, so we take turns greeting and actually working to make wishes come true!”
I’m sure you all remember the movie “The Santa Claus” with Tim Allen? Well, the Pearl River Santa had the same man that made the belts for the movie make his own belt. He also made him a custom wallet of leather with images of Santa. It is a work of art. I also noticed his Santa ring that Mrs. Claus gave him for Christmas last year, and a watch with their image on the face.
Meanwhile, his fame as Santa was gradually increasing. Santa suddenly reached for his red ball cap. With a wink of an eye and a twist of his head, he yanked off his cap. Watching my reaction carefully, he shook his head and the curly locks fell all around his face like a halo. It was amazing! He laughed heartily, and said, “This is my favorite part! When the kids see my natural hair, they just utter, ‘Oh!’ with big eyes. Then I can hear the whispers, ‘He IS the real Santa Claus!’ And women love the curls, too! I let my hair and beard start growing each winter. After Christmas Day, I shave for Mrs. Claus.”
The interesting thing is that, as he looked less like Lester, and more like Santa, a lot of acquaintances he knew personally no longer recognized him. Santa was evolving more and more, and folks noticed how he seemed like the real deal. Did you know he and his wife each have an International Sleigh Driver’s license? It takes a while to become Santa. They also both got certified and went to Santa School to learn all the leadership roles. It wasn’t long before he started getting requests from numerous organizations to visit.
I learned a lot in this interview, and one thing that never occurred to me was the personal expenses involved. It costs a lot every time their suits need to be dry cleaned. Plus, they volunteer so many places and gas prices have escalated. Then, there are the mountains of toys to be delivered. Luckily, the elves help build the toys, but the supplies have to come from somewhere!
At some point, Santa’s knees and hips were acting up, so he gave up mechanics and took a job driving a bus for GOSTAT in St. Tammany Parish. (Only until toy production ramps up, of course!) He worked his way up to supervisor. He got to know all the STARC adults while he transported them to wherever they needed to go. Santa made a surprise visit to their work site, and
was able to call each one by name, which delighted and amazed everyone. Unfortunately, our Pearl River Santa will be retiring after this year due to health issues. He admitted, “I can’t even do my ‘hohoho’ anymore. My knees and hips won’t let me lift the kids to my lap. But I love volunteering. I still want to visit at the boys home in Mandeville. And, of course, we will continue to help at our church. It will be very hard to give it up.”
So how about Mrs. Claus and her role in all of this? Well, as you have heard, she went to the same training at Santa School. She also got a Bachelor’s degree at age 60 in Christian Counseling. Her role is to help ease the fears with the waiting kids and, when all else fails, she holds the child and distracts them
while Santa appears behind them long enough for a photo. She has written two coloring and activity books about Santa. She’s written 11 books all together, including Christian books, children’s books, adult Bible studies and inspirational books.
Recently, the couple sold their home and bought a 37-foot fifth-wheel RV in order to get back to traveling together. Their big, Christmas-red, diesel truck will take them wherever they decide to go, including trips to Texas to visit their grandchildren, Zachary and Evie. Santa waved his arm, announcing, “Outside of my sleigh, I’ve been fortunate enough to see 49 states! My wife had only been to four states before our marriage. Now, she’s visited 31 states and 23 different countries (outside of the sleigh
rides). We did a lot of cruises and now, with the RV, we want to go West and really explore. We’re geocachers and they have geocaching events all over the US. Our geocaching name is L & L Cupids, meaning Liz and Lester in love. But they always asked for our real name. A soon as we put Santa and Mrs. Claus, the kids run up to us with their questions. I’ve even shown a few of them how to locate a hidden geocache.”
“We’re thinking about taking a cruise to Hawaii for our 45th anniversary. Right now, we have 37 events to wrap up, and we are just a month away from my big day! I get phone calls daily from people wanting Santa to come visit.” Time was drawing nigh, and I know you still have questions for Santa. I will
likely never have another opportunity to get the real scoop! I uncovered that his favorite cookies are Macadamia Nut, and I know you remember his favorite drink, hot chocolate! Rudolph is still his favorite reindeer, thanks to the fact that he still lights up the sky.
Now for the big questions: What does Santa do when there’s no chimney? “Simple, I have a magic key that gets me in every door!” What does Santa do if dogs are waking everyone up with their barking? “We have elfin dust. It just calms them down. My biggest problem is when I look down that chimney and see that fire is going really hot. I have to put that fire out first. My route starts in the United States around one o’clock in the morning. And the reason we can finish the route so fast is because we
only have 12 hours of darkness here. But when I started on the other side of Earth, it’s still daylight here. So the United States is the last country to get their presents.”
As a teacher, I was delighted to hear that Santa’s best detectives are his teachers. He admitted, “A lot of my teachers have their elves on the shelves to watch for me. And, for schools that don’t have elves on shelves, I give them a pair of Santa’s glasses to stick up in the tree. That way I can look and see personally who is naughty and nice.”
“I do have a request for parents and kids. Please be sure that everyone is in bed early on Christmas Eve. Don’t try and stay up to see me, because I won’t come while you’re still awake.
That’s why Mrs. Claus has the reindeer license, because sometimes she has to help come back to those kids. And the world is getting so populated.”
Santa and Mrs. Claus wear normal clothes when they go about their regular duties like shopping. So if you recognize them, they will give you an autographed photograph. But remember, mum’s the word! They are supposed to be incognito. Santa laughed one last time and said, “It’s kind of hard to hide this though!” Gesturing to his whole body. Putting a finger to his cheek, he smiled, “Remember, Santa’s watching all the boys and girls, and checking his list.”
To all, a very merry Christmas. May your wishes come true!
Every year, for many more decades than The Storyteller has appeared in Slidell Magazine, John Case has written a Christmas story to read to his family on Christmas Eve.
If you’ve got images of John’s family lounging in the livingroom after a big Christmas meal, basking in the glow of the fireplace, and sipping eggnog while listening to the melodic tones of the family patriarch reading his tales... you’re right. It’s a beautiful family tradition.
I’m honored that he’s allowed me to share these stories with you.
Howard Smith was a successful dairy farmer, or successful by the standards of the day. The house that had burned was modest but sufficient for he, his wife, and son who was now in the military. His investment, and his main interest, had been in his dairy operation. We would find out there was no insurance on the home, but that would have made little immediate difference.
I was fifteen when it happened, and Dad did not hesitate. Leaving his meal half-eaten, he said, “Come on son, let’s go. Dress warm because we don’t know when we’ll be back, and it is going to be a cold night.”
My dad volunteered for a lot of charitable missions, but previously I had been deemed too young or too small to participate to any significant degree. I will never forget the pride I felt at being included. I was finally old enough and, more importantly, big enough to contribute in a community effort. It was a type of passage into manhood. Without thought, mother began to put food in a basket. Most of it was from the supper we had been eating. Ham, fried sweet potatoes, cornbread, and then she added two thermos bottles of hot coffee.
Arriving at the Smith farm, there must have been thirty men and a few women already present. Pastor Dumas, they called him Brother Dumas, the minister at Creek Fork Baptist Church, was in charge; and he began to discuss options that could give the family some relief as soon as possible.
The family was homeless and Christmas day was approaching. Nothing was said, but you could tell it would be the consensus of the crowd that no one would celebrate Christmas until the family could at least be comfortable. In just a few hours, about daylight, the cows would have to be milked. Smith Farm Dairy was a large, modern facility, with the latest equipment. The facility had not been damaged, but the electrical system leading to it had burned. In the crowd was an electrician. He reached into his truck and fastened a large leather tool belt around his waist and disappeared behind a bank of multi breakers and electrical meters.
We heard the whine of the wheels as the truck slowed down to make the turn into the Smith Property. It was the Rural Electric Association’s bucket truck. There would soon be electrical power.
It was decided that a small living space could be created in the dairy barn. The roof and exterior walls were already in place. There was little need for much space, as their only child, Ronnie, was in Vietnam in what was called an “advisory capacity.”
Crude house plans were drawn with a stick in the dirt
illuminated by headlight beams from the dozens of cars and trucks that had arrived. As if they were breaking a huddle in a football game, after bending over to look at the plan, the men jumped back, each moving in a different direction and each knowing what he had to do. I don’t recall any additional instructions being given.
Some who had pick-up trucks went to the hardware store that had reopened as soon as they heard about the mishap and promised to stay open all night for anything that may be needed. They donated the first $400 in material, which was a goodly sum in those days.
Others went to get their tools. That is what we did. On the way back to the Smith’s, we listened to Walter Cronkite on the radio. He was summing up the news of the year. He reported, as of December 15, 1962, we had lost 52 American servicemen that were serving as advisors in Vietnam. Cronkite closed the newscast by predicting the following year would be much bloodier. Dad commented that he hoped Howard had not heard that. I knew he was referring to Ronnie being stationed there.
Some men were sent home to get some sleep. They
would be needed tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow would be Christmas Day.
My dad was a good carpenter, and he took control of that, while others handled the plumbing, and others the electrical.
We worked through the night, only going home when the morning crew relieved us. That was just about daylight. Other dairy farmers either came themselves or sent employees to assist with the milking. The noise of the hammers and saws distressed the cows and work was postponed for a couple of hours until the milking was completed.
When we arrived back home, I remembered that, on a normal Christmas, we would now be opening our gifts. Somehow, I knew that this was not a normal Christmas; and, somehow, I knew that just as I had made a passage into manhood, I would forever, hereafter, forego the joys and excitement of a child’s Christmas.
Christmas gifts were not as frivolous back then, and Christmas was not as commercial in those days. Gifts were primarily something to wear. Usually, the wives and mothers did the shopping and bought their own presents. They would wrap them and put them under the tree and act as though they were surprised when they opened them. They also bought a gift or two for their husbands. Practical gifts, of course. A tie and socks were the standard; but, on a good Christmas, there may be a pair of work boots or dress khakis.
The Smiths had nothing left. Each family decided to give at least one of their presents to the family. Size did not matter. We wrote the name of the store where the gift was purchased. Shainberg’s, Benoits, Hodge’s, Lofton’s, Rushing’s and many other store names were written on the packages. Everyone knew these merchants would gladly exchange them for the proper size. I knew I had a pair of Red Wing boots from Rushing’s Shoe Store. They were not stylish, but that was what I was given, so I gladly donated them to the cause.
Dad and I returned the next day, Christmas Day, and we returned the next day also. On the second day after Christmas, we finished. Two bedrooms (hopefully Ronnie would come home eventually), a kitchen, a bath, and
a living area. Not big, but big enough; and probably more comfortable, and certainly more modern, than their old house had been.
As we left that afternoon, all of us that were involved had a good, warm feeling. We felt pride, we felt like a real community. We went home. We could now celebrate Christmas.
At home, something was wrong. The good feeling had ended too soon.
The phone began to ring. Neighbor called neighbor. Gifts, Christmas dinner, and all the trimmings were loaded in the cars and we all gathered at the Smith’s new home, which had adopted the name “The Barn House.”
We shared our food, almost like a potluck dinner, and opened our own gifts. Nothing had to be said, but in that Evangelical tone, Brother Dumas stood and returned thanks. He closed by saying, “And Lord, we all know it started in a manger, a barn.”
The night wasn’t over. There was one more surprise. We heard a siren and then saw the reflection of a red emergency light through the new window we had installed. The noise and light silenced as the car drove to the front door. It was the sheriff. We all held our breath for the news we thought we were about to hear.
After the car rolled to a stop, a large green bag was tossed from the trunk by a deputy. With relief, we thought the sheriff had come to bring more gifts for the family from the community. Then a tall, handsome figure wearing Army dress greens emerged from the car. The sheriff had picked a special passenger up at the depot. Ronnie was unexpectedly home from Viet Nam. His tour of duty was over.
It was now time for us to go home.
This all happened sixty years ago. I have never felt such a feeling of community again. I hope to, but under better circumstances.
Slidell Antique Association
First and Erlanger Streets in historic Olde Towne Slidell
Antiques & Art
Terry Lynn’s Café
Dellsperger Art Studio
Magnolia House Antique Mall
Let the Good Times Roll Antiques
Southern Lady Antiques
Nanny’s Totes & Things
Annette’s House of Décor Antique MallJohn S. Case December 2022
One of my favorite childhood Christmas memories is of the special dishes my mom made. Among the best were her pierogi, little halfmoon-shaped dumplings filled with onions and sauerkraut. Mary makes them for Christmas to this day, using the recipe my mom handed down to her. Here’s a picture of it, in my mom’s handwriting. What memories!
One of the advantages of our family’s recipe is that it makes dozens of pierogi. The disadvantage is that it makes dozens of pierogi. And, as someone who hates to waste food, I do my share of eating them. I risk getting fatter around the middle than I already am, but every bite reminds me of my mom, and it’s a risk I’ll continue taking.
Investments have risks, too. Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other asset classes can go up, but they can also lose value. Prudent investors are aware of the riskreward relationship and must give it consideration when making investment decisions. Nevertheless, the risk still remains. Frankly, no investment or financial tool is ideal. As they say, you can’t have your cake (or pierogi), and eat it, too.
Or, can you?
A common strategy among conservative investors is to use permanent life insurance as a hedge against other investments, because the cash value of the policy is guaranteed to grow tax-deferred every year (assuming you pay the premiums and don’t take any loans against your policy). This strategy allows an investor to leave some money at risk – in the stock market, real estate, precious metals – with the hope of a higher return, while knowing that low-risk life insurance cash values will continue to grow, year in and year out.1 An added bonus is the liquidity of the cash in the policy, which may be used for any number of reasons. This can make a whole life policy another source of income for retirement. And, the death benefit to those you leave behind could actually
replace the money you spent during your retirement years. What a deal!
Just about everyone I know wants to grow and preserve wealth, and whole life insurance is a great way to do it for some folks. If you’d like to learn more about this strategy for conservative investors, call me to make an appointment.Mike Rich, CFP® Pontchartrain Investment Management (985) 605-5066
1Guarantees are based on the claims paying ability of the issuing company.
No strategy assures success or protects against loss.
Securities and Advisory Services offered through LPL Financial, a Registered Investment Advisor, Member FINRA/SIPC
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
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Holiday Foods to sing about
from “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”
Lyric: “Now bring us some figgy pudding, Now bring us some figgy pudding...”
In a tradition begun in Victorian England, Christmas Carolers would be invited inside to enjoy a warm drink and Christmas Pudding, a spiced cake-like dessert. British figgy pudding has a long, delicious history—one dating back to at least the 17th century. It enjoyed a huge revival after Charles Dickens included it his 1843 Christmas Carol. It was immortalized in song in 1939.
QR Code for Figgy
from “The Christmas Song”
Lyric: “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...”
Chestnuts peak right around Christmas time, and being both abundant and affordable have made them a winter treat for generations. Big city folks may be familiar with the sight and smell of sidewalk chestnut vendors during the holiday season, but this snack is easy to make at home. After about 25 minutes of roasting, the shell will easily peel away, leaving a tender fruit with a delicate, slightly sweet flavor.
QR Code for Roasted Chestnuts Recipe
from “Oh Hanukkah”
Lyric: “Gather ‘round the table, we’ll give you a treat/Sevivon to play with, latkes to eat”
Hanukkah is the eight-day Jewish festival, celebrated at the end of December, that celebrates the miracle that occurred when a one-day supply of oil was able to keep an ancient menorah burning for eight nights. The oil used to cook latkes, a traditional potato pancake, is symbolic of this event.
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from “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”
Lyric: “And I’ve brought some corn for popping...”
The 1945 hit “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” suggests popping corn as a cozy activity for those snowed in, but nowadays the snack is usually purchased in the form of holiday popcorn tins. Popcorn also has the honor of being one of the few yuletide food items that doubles as tree trimming; many families make popcorn garlands for their tree.
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from “Here We Come A-Wassailing”
Lyric: “Our wassail cup is made/Of the rosemary tree/And so is your beer/Of the best barley”
Wassailing is the English Christmas tradition of going door to door and wishing people good health over a hot cup of wassail. In medieval times, it was made with mulled beer or mead mixed with sugar and ginger in a bowl, then covered with toast or sops (soaked bread). Modern versions of wassail often consist of a cider or wine base with added brandy or sherry and spices.
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Eggnog from “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”
Lyric: “She’d been drinkin’ too much eggnog/And we begged her not to go...”
Grandma isn’t the only one who sneaks too much of this rich drink during the holidays. This Christmas libation has been popular in the United States since colonial times, when the abundant availability of Caribbean rum and dairy products made it an affordable alternative to wine. Though originally served warm, now the non-alcoholic supermarket variety is served chilled.
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from “Christmas in Hollis”
Lyric: “It’s Christmas time in Hollis, Queens/Mom’s cooking chicken and collard greens...”
Collard greens, a traditional staple of soul food, is often associated with big family meals. Hip-hop group Run-DMC immortalized the greens as a part of a traditional American Christmas meal in the 1987 hit “Christmas in Hollis,” referring to the group’s neighborhood in the New York borough of Queens. Traditionally, collard greens are also eaten on New Year’s Day to ensure a prosperous new year, as the leafy greens resemble money.
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from “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”
Lyric: “Later we’ll have some pumpkin pie/And we’ll do some caroling...”
Pumpkins were imported by explorers from the Americas to Europe as early as 1536, and soon became a popular addition to English harvest celebrations. Pumpkin pie is usually made from canned pumpkin and spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. It is frequently associated with Thanksgiving, but it appears in several well-known Christmas songs. Pumpkin pie is traditionally eaten during early winter, and is perhaps the dessert that is most associated with a traditional American holiday meal.
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from “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas”
Lyric: “Take a look at the five and ten, it’s glistening once again / With candy canes and silver lanes that glow.”
1.76 Billion candy canes are produced in America every year, so it shouldn’t be surprising that they are the #1 selling non-chocolate candy during the month of December. The recognizable hook shaped candy was a German invention in the 17th century. While it is possible to make your own, it’s equally fun to find and try new recipes to add candy canes to. Check out the link below for over 20 recipes that use candy canes.
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Cane Recipes Fruit Cake
from “My Favorite Things”
Lyric: “Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels / Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles.”
One of the most popular treats in any traditional Viennese café, this iconic dessert is considered by many to be the national dish of Austria. Often mistaken for being of German origin, the oldest known strudel recipe dates back to 1697 and survives today in a handwritten cookbook in the Vienna Town Hall Library. Apple Strudels attained an even higher popularity in America after the release of The Sound of Music in 1965.
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from “We Need A Little Christmas”
Lyric: “Slice up the fruit cake / It’s time we’ve hung some tinsel on the evergreen bough”
Whether you love it or hate it, fruit cake has a long and surprising history, and is now synonymous with Christmas. You may think it came from England, but it’s actually been around since ancient Roman times. It was so filling and lasted so long without spoiling, that Roman soldiers carried it into battle as a snack. There’s thousands of ways to make it, but they all contain various dried fruits and nuts, with some featuring whiskey, bourbon or rum.
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from “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”
There are no lyrics in “The Nutcracker” ballet’s “ Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” but for centuries sugar plums have been associated with holiday celebrations. In the 17th century, as sugar became more widely available, sweet treats like sugar plums started gaining in popularity. Originally made from seeds, nuts or dried fruit in a hard sugar coating, modern sugar plums are made with dried prunes (a specific variety of plum), toasted nuts, warm spices, and a crunchy sugar coating. They are pretty easy to make, so check out the recipe below.
QR Code for Sugar Plums Recipe Candy Canes used in Peppermint Bark
“Your Estate Matters”By Ronda M. Gabb, NP, JD, RFC
IS THERE A FOR THAT?
That is such a common question we hear! The short answer is: MAYBE, but we are not giving you one! Why, you ask? Because in estate planning (and life in general) every action has a REACTION. And it’s that reaction that gets you in trouble. Once you read this, you will know why it is not good practice to just provide a form.
The most common “form” question is: Can’t you just give me a form so my mother can put her house in my name? For just that one “simple” question, let’s look at all the REACTIONS to that action.
This is called an “Act of Donation” and no, it isn’t just a “form”. Under Louisiana law, an Act of Donation must be prepared properly to even be valid. The criteria include: it must be crystal clear that it’s an irrevocable donation; it must include an accurate and complete legal description; and the format in which it is drafted is sacrosanct (just like a Last Will). It must be in “authentic act” which means each party (Donors and Donees) must sign the Donation in the presence of two witnesses and a Notary Public-- everyone in the same room at the same time to sign and witness the signatures. There are no exceptions! If not done properly, it is invalid. (If you’re a nerd like me, Google this interesting case: Zamjahn v. Zamjahn.)
Once the Act of Donation is properly drafted and executed, now it needs to be recorded in the Conveyance records in the Parish
where the property is located for accurate “notice to third parties,” and the Parish tax assessor gets notified. Depending on the circumstances, the property will likely be reassessed, and the Homestead Exemption and Senior Freeze, if any, will be lost if the Donee does not reside there. Retaining Homestead Exemption and the Senior Freeze are additional issues that should be addressed with proper legal representation, like retention of usufruct, perhaps. But how do you know about these issues if you just get a form?
Next reaction: What do you mean there’s a limit to how much my mom can give me? Yep, Mom can only gift or donate up to $16,000 per year (going up to $17,000 in 2023), per Donee, without the requirement to file a Form 709 Federal Gift Tax return.
If you want to know more about that, ask your accountant about that “form”! Just like your annual tax return, it’s just another form, but I am sure to pay my CPA to file that for me, because I won’t risk the IRS reactions that I may not know about!
Wow, there really can’t be any more reactions, right? Wrong! If mom just donated her property to you, your “basis” is now whatever mom’s basis was. Usually whatever mom purchased it for many years ago, or perhaps mom inherited it, and that basis may be even lower. Regardless, it’s NOT the fair market value (FMV) as of the date of the gift (although that is the value
that will be reported on that gift tax return). If, however, mom had kept the property in her own name and you then inherited it at mom’s death, then the basis would be stepped up to the FMV as of mom’s date of death.
Anything else, you ask? Why YES! Most of the time, the reason people are asking for this “magic” form is because they heard this is how Mom can get on Medicaid, and then the “government won’t take my mom’s house”. Well, that’s another whole article, but the short answer is you probably just shot yourself in the foot as that gift means that Mom cannot qualify for Medicaid for another five years. Of course, we have other options for this too, but you won’t find them on a “form”.
All of the above “reactions” can occur from doing a “simple” Act of Donation “form” without proper counsel. Imagine how many reactions there would be if we just provided a “form” for a Last Will, a Living Trust, Powers of Attorney, and the list goes on and on.
I realize trivializing legal documents as “just a form” is just an attempt to save money, but we all know the old adage “you get what you pay for” is true in most cases. If it’s a FREE form you want, you must be willing to accept the consequences, and risk spending more money to try and correct what has been done, if it’s not too late to do so.
Holiday Stress & Depression
demands with ease, many struggle to stay afloat during this time. The holiday season does not have to be dreaded. Being realistic, planning ahead and seeking support can help ward off stress and depression and give you the joyous season you deserve!
When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. If you know the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past, be proactive with trying to prevent stress and depression in the first place. Here are some helpful tips to follow:
• Keep expectations manageable. Try to set realistic goals for yourself. Pace yourself. Organize your time. Make a list and prioritize the important activities.
• Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Don’t put the entire focus on just one day. Activities can be spread out over several different days to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.
• Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones for other reasons, it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
• Reach out. Feelings of loneliness and isolation during the holidays are normal. To help, seek out community, religious or other social events. Many organizations have online support groups, social media sites or virtual events. Volunteering and doing something kind for others can also help lift your spirits and help make new friends.
• Plan ahead. Make a plan and set aside specific days for specific tasks like shopping, baking, connecting with friends and other activities. Shopping online can help save time for other activities. Planning menus ahead of
time and making a grocery list will help prevent lastminute trips to the store.
• Take time for yourself. Breathe and have YOU time. Enlist help when needed, and assign tasks to friends and family. Everything should not be your responsibility. Find an activity that you enjoy and treat yourself. Finding something that can help reduce stress and clear your mind will leave you feeling recharged and ready to tackle another day.
• Seek professional help if you need it. Nobody is perfect. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, overwhelmed by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable, hopeless and unable to face routine tasks. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
Don’t let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent stress and depression that can arise during the holidays. Learn to recognize holiday triggers, such as personal demands and financial pressures, so you can combat them before they result in a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holiday season!
2022 Holiday Concerts
Jam Concert Christmas Spectacular with Vince Vance and the Valiants
As we navigate through December, many of us may relate to a phrase from the famous poem, The Night Before Christmas, “The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.” Though I’m not sure why visions of sugarplums are something to dream of, this month always seems to conjure up special moments. Why can’t we enjoy magical moments throughout the year?
I invite you to take a stroll with me to find the magic in the ordinary. Imagine the crispness of a chilly fall morning as we wake up and start our day. Whether you are a hardcore coffee drinker or prefer a cup of green tea, grab your mug and let’s walk out in my backyard.
The first thing we see are the northern cardinals, house finches, and mockingbirds vying for a spot at the bird feeder. While their physiological adaptions help, such as ruffling their feathers to
trap a layer of warm air next to their bodies and tucking their skinny legs and feet next to their breast feathers, it isn’t enough to keep them warm through a long, frosty night. That’s why we see them visiting our feeders more often than in warmer weather. Keeping warm requires more energy. Even though songbirds have fat reserves, they often exhaust these in just a day! They can quickly use up to 70% of their reserves, causing a loss of 10% body weight in one cold night. This easily throws them into a survival challenge. During normal temps, a feeder bird gains about 20% of daily calories from bird feeders, with the remaining from natural sources – insects, plant seeds, etc. Cooler temperatures cause them to load up on calories at feeders just to survive. Studies have shown that bird feeders really can make a difference. Feeding high-fat foods such as sunflower seeds, nuts and suet; which usually contains the necessary fat and proteins; along with nuts, fruit
and insects make them irresistible to our hungry, feathered friends.
Beyond the bird feeder is an eastern towhee scratching for insects under the leaves. Even though they are members of the sparrow family, they are heavier and noticeably longer than the average sparrow. Although males and females share the same pattern, their coloring is different. Both have a white chest and rufous sides, with dark coloring on the head, back and tail. In males, the dark coloring is black; where the females are brown. Though not usually found in a group, if you did see them together, they would be called a “teapot” or “tangle” of towhees.
Wait! What was that movement out of the corner of my eye? Oh look! It’s one of our local eastern gray squirrels, joining the birds to forage for food. Often, they hang out underneath our squirrel-proof feeder, snacking on seeds dropped by their flying friends. Additionally, these small furry
rodents gather up acorns and other nuts, burying them or caching them in their nest for winter. Squirrel nests are built of twigs and leaves about 30 feet up a tree where they will snuggle on those cold, brisk days and nights. Opportunistic, they sometimes re-use woodpecker nest cavities in trees as their winter den.
They are fascinating acrobats, able to jump four feet vertically and nine feet horizontally! Nothing ordinary about that! We can pull up a chair and watch as they jump from skinny tree limb to skinnier tree limb, never missing a beat!
Did you see that movement by the flowerpot near the fence? At first glance, I assumed it was a bird foraging for insects on the ground. But upon closer look, I discovered an eastern box turtle on the move. He or she meandered across the sandstone patio to munch on something along the edge; maybe he found some small insects, tiny plants, roots or seeds. Turtles don’t
technically hibernate in our area. Instead, they enter a state known as brumation which allows them to slow down during colder temperatures, when food is less available. During this time, they burrow deep under the soil and/or leaves.
Mating takes place from April to October, with nesting occurring from May thru July. The female will dig a hole with her hind legs and lay from 2 – 8 white, oval-shaped eggs, which will hatch approximately 2-3 months later. One summer, I discovered a female in the process of laying her eggs. I never found the hatchlings but, from my research, this is not uncommon. The young are very tiny when they emerge with much darker shells than adults. They have a tendency to stay in their nest or buried under leaves for protection from predators, such as raccoons, birds, foxes, skunks, dogs and even ants.
Turtles are not the only amphibians we can find in our yards. Here’s a bronze
frog, known locally as the “banjo frog” because their call sounds like the twang of a banjo string. These frogs are found throughout the state and love to dine on insects (think mosquitoes), small snakes, fish, etc.
Who hasn’t seen our beautiful green tree frogs sporting their lime green suit? They can be found on doors and windows feeding on small insects, including mosquitoes. Their call is most often heard after a rain shower. Although females rarely vocalize, the males sing loudly to attract a mate. Wildlife is not the only extraordinary magic we can appreciate. Some of the most amazing beauty can be found in a gorgeous sunrise or sunset. Over the years, I’ve photographed some incredible moments as the sun crested the horizon. Actually, there are various meteorology apps that can help predict the drama to be captured. But, rather than pour over another phone / computer app, just bask in the serendipity of the moment!
As we walk around, a nice breeze stirs the tree limbs, dislodging some fall leaves. I smile as I watch them flutter to the ground, as Mother Nature sculpts a beautiful pattern of colorful leaves on her canvas. Take pleasure in the abstract arrangements created. Sadly, we don’t get the drastic color changes found in other parts of the country, but we still see some from sweet gum, cypress, Bradford pear, ginkgo, southern sugar maple and red maple, to name a few.
What causes the leaf color to change? Scientists have pondered this for years. Even though we don’t know all the details, we do know that three factors are involved: leaf pigments, length of night, and weather. The primary influencer is the increasing length of nighttime.
Just like the leaves change colors, the birds who visit us ebb and flow with migration. During the year, we have our regular, year-round residents: northern cardinal, house finch, tufted titmouse, Carolina chickadee, eastern bluebird, Carolina wren, eastern towhee, brown thrasher, mourning dove, blue jay, northern mockingbird, red headed woodpecker and red bellied woodpecker. Then, there are our winter seasonal visitors: American goldfinch, purple finch, pine siskin, yellowrumped warbler, white-throated sparrow, cedar waxwing, indigo bunting, and orchard oriole. I encourage you to get to know the birds who visit your yard and surrounding areas. They can provide fascination for hours!
Beautiful birds are not just found in backyards. Just look around you as you drive on one of our local streets. I frequently see red headed woodpeckers or eastern bluebirds streaking across the road in search of food or, maybe, returning to a nest with food for their young. You might even see a hawk, owl or egret feeding alongside a thoroughfare.
One day, as I drove home from a yoga class, I noticed a barred owl in a ditch, fishing for crawfish. Caught without a camera, I raced home to grab one, praying he would still be there when I returned. I didn’t want to waste time changing clothes. So, still in my yoga clothes and flip-flops, I carefully maneuvered around to get a clean shot with a nicer backdrop than Military Road. Next thing I knew, I was in mud up to my ankles and had lost a shoe! But, I got the shot! No crawfish but a nice photo of the owl in daylight. Owls found in Louisiana are mostly nocturnal. Their excellent vision and hearing make them successful nighttime hunters. Plus, darkness helps them avoid predators and help prevent their prey from seeing them. Their ability to basically fly silently through the trees gives them a distinct edge over whatever they are hunting.
Barred owls are unique in that their eyes are brown while most other owls are gold-colored, like the great horned owl.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the ruby-throated hummingbirds that are regular visitors to both feeders and salvia in our butterfly garden. Who can ignore the sparkling glint of their feathers in the sunlight as they dart around the yard,
whether at a feeder, a plant, or even as they perch nearby to protect food from would-be assailants?
How can you attract hummingbirds to your yard? They are most attracted to red, orange and pink flowers. Feeders with red parts also get their attention. There’s no need to mix red food coloring with sugar water in the feeders. I’ve had great luck with red salvia, bottlebrush and lantana; but there are many more native plants that will catch their interest. Did you know you can train a hummingbird? First, you will need a feeder with interchangeable colored ports – specifically red, yellow and white. Set up your feeder with one of each and watch to see which your hummers prefer. You can then position that color in the spots you want them to perch. What other ordinary magic can we discover? Let’s not forget about the birds we usually only see flying overhead such as turkey vultures, black vultures, red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks, and swallow-tailed kites.
Why don’t we go for a short drive? Less than a mile from my house, I spy something soaring overhead. It’s not a vulture or a swallow-tailed kite. But it definitely looks to be in the raptor family. As I get closer, I watch it dip down below the treetops. I gently pull to a stop, out of traffic and harm’s way. With my binoculars, I take a closer look and realize the raptor is a red-tailed hawk who has landed in a nest. By the time I have my camera set up, the adult has left the nest, which just so happens to contain 2 healthy juveniles.
Red-tailed hawks are year-round residents and possibly the most common in North America. They are frequently seen on a perch, such as a utility pole or fence post, watching for possible prey: voles, mice, squirrels, rabbits, birds, snakes, etc. Among the largest of the Buteo hawks in North America with wingspans a little over four feet, they are perfectly shaped for soaring. Their call is a unique screech that lasts for 3-4 seconds. Apparently, their call is big in Hollywood, since it is frequently used in many scenes involving eagles. With eyesight eight times sharper than a human’s, it is no surprise they can spot a mouse on the ground from 100 feet in the air while circling.
Their nest is made of sticks and leafy branches by both parents, which also share incubating duties. Often the female sits on the eggs and feeds the young after hatching, while the male hunts and returns with food.
Beautiful birds are not the only flying magic we can find in our yards. Watch for butterflies, dragonflies, and other interesting insects/pollinators. Butterflies and dragonflies are among the few insects that bring a smile to the face of young and old.
Each year I have a bevy of spectacular butterflies in our butterfly garden. There are sulfurs, monarchs, swallowtails, American lady, viceroy, common buckeye, gulf fritillaries, and more.
Ideas to Share Nature with Children
Put on rubber boots and jump in mud puddles.
Pick flowers and make a bouquet.
Watch for birds, butterflies or other insects in the backyard.
Encourage and educate them to identify what they see or hear.
Go on a treasure hunt.
Look for tracks and scat. Try to identify.
Get a magnifying glass and examine objects up close.
Look for shapes in clouds.
Create a nature notebook to track what’s observed. Re-visit each season to note how objects change throughout the year.
Gulf fritillaries are a bright orange, medium-sized butterfly found throughout the southern United States. They are also known as passion butterflies because of their love of passionflowers. Monarchs are on the endangered species list. Each spring, the monarch starts its flight from its wintering residence deep in the oyamel forests of Mexico, northward in search of milkweed to lay eggs. Milkweed leaves are the only food source of the monarch caterpillar. Sadly, they are being negatively affected by Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE), a parasite which impedes the success of the butterfly to emerge from the pupae state. Milder cases may allow the emergence of a monarch; however, they usually have a shorter lifespan and are unable to fly as well as a healthy monarch. Many avid monarch enthusiasts believe OE is related to the tropical milkweed found at local nurseries; and recommend cutting it back it in early October and keep it cut back to discourage winterbreeding colonies.
Eastern tiger swallowtail are large, colorful butterflies commonly found east of the Mississippi River, but they also are seen in some western states. They can vary in color based on age and sex. The most common sports black tiger stripes on yellow wings. Males are mostly yellow with black edges, while the females display swaths of blue and orange on the edges of their wings.
Dragonflies are a fun and challenging subject to follow. Like little miniature helicopters, they can easily hover or flit from one spot to the next, making photography a challenge. These masters of the airways seem to do everything in flight. They mate in flight and catch their food with their feet while flying. One special reason we should all be grateful to see these amazing aerialists is their diet – mosquitoes and midges! Yay!
If you like fresh vegetables and flowers, thank a bee! They are the biggest pollinator source we have. Bees,
unlike wasps and yellowjackets, don’t intentionally sting us. Enjoy the buzz of a bee as it dances from flower to flower.
Don’t think the extraordinary magic is only available during the daytime! One evening, we were sitting on the porch after dinner and I noticed some movement in the yard. It wasn’t quite dark, so I grabbed my camera and went to investigate. Low and behold, we had an adventurous raccoon in our backyard! Who doesn’t love the “masked bandit?” This little guy was a camera ham, putting on quite the show as he posed for me. As cute as they are, raccoons can be a nuisance – raiding garbage cans and gardens. They are omnivores - dining on crawfish, snails, insects, fruits and berries. But be careful! Never try to pet one, as they can carry rabies and other diseases.
As a kid, did you ever lay on your back in the grass and watch clouds floating
overhead? It was one of my favorite pastimes. I would try to determine what animal or object I could imagine the cloud to be. With a vivid imagination, I would determine the cloud to be a mystical unicorn or a dragon just like Puff, the Magic Dragon. Sometimes I picked out a castle or a cat; a horse or a dog. How long has it been since you really looked at clouds and applied a bit of youthful imagination to see what you can discover? Give it a try! Of course, we don’t have to stay in the backyard. Let’s venture to one of my favorite places, the Boy Scout Trail in Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). There’s always something magical to see and enjoy throughout the year. In the springtime, Louisiana irises put on a stunning show of purple flowers.
Louisiana irises are not just in our state. They are found in the lower Mississippi River valley from southern Illinois and southeast Missouri into the Gulf coastal plain, and Atlantic coastal plain north from Florida to South Carolina.
There are five species of Louisiana irises here. National and State Wildlife Refuges are wonderful places to see these colorful springtime-blooming plants. But they can also be seen in ditches along local roads and highways.
Blooming Louisiana irises are not the only extraordinary vision to be seen. Regardless of the season of your visit, a slow walk can present blooming flowers, buzzing insects, a treasure trove of various birds, interesting flora and fauna. And don’t forget to admire the blooming lotuses and water lilies. Try using all five senses as you stroll: Sight: a glance around brings visions of a beautiful pine savannah habitat, home to the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
Hearing: Stop and listen. You can hear birds singing in the trees and underbrush. The call of a red-bellied woodpecker can be heard nearby.
Smell: Maybe you can detect the smell of the fragrant water lilies or lotus flowers; or the pine sap dripping from fresh pine tree pecks by a resident woodpecker.
Taste: This one might be a little trickier. Don’t try eating any plants in the wild without the authenticated knowledge of a Master Naturalist.
Touch: Feel the sensation of a soft breeze as it wafts over your skin.
I am showing you a lot of pictures of the ordinary magic around us. But I want to encourage you to not always take a photo of every subject you
see. Sometimes, we (myself included) should just appreciate the beauty of the moment and not become obsessed with capturing a photo. Recently, I was driving to Lacombe on Highway 434 when, to my surprise, a bald eagle fluttered down and landed alongside the road within a few feet of my vehicle. I slowed, hoping he would not fly into the path of an approaching car. My first thought, “I should stop and take a picture.” My second thought, “It is not safe to stop on this busy highway.” My third thought, “I should just enjoy the moment;” which I did. I continued about a half mile further and saw a great egret on the opposite side of the highway. All the same thoughts passed through my mind!
My purpose with this entire story is to inspire you to see the beauty all around us; to stop and smell the roses; to appreciate the extraordinary in the ordinary; to embrace the magical moments occurring around us all the time, especially those times when we are rushing to and fro, focused on our next task at hand. I encourage you to try to find at least one thing each and every day that brings a smile to your face and brings back a child-like moment of excitement and joy!
• FREE PHOTOS WITH SANTA
• CHRISTMAS LIGHTS!
• Ice Skating Rink
• Live Entertainment Nightly
• Holiday Music
• Crafts & Gifts
• FOOD & BEVERAGES
• FREE ADMISSION!
HERITAGE PARK • 6-9PM
THURS - SUN, DECEMBER 15-18
THURS - FRI, DECEMBER 22-23
PROCEEDS TO BENEFIT:
I first met Celia Guillory when she acted the part of a wise and sassy Voodoo witch in the onstage play adaptation of The Storyteller’s “The Surrogate Bride.” We became Facebook friends and I loved seeing her posts in my feed. I especially enjoyed her video segments “Cooking with Clotile,” where she and her daughter, Chloë, go Facebook live from their kitchen and walk us through preparations for their family dinner. I love the interaction between the mother/daughter duo, and have learned how to cook more than one delicious meal (thanks guys!).
Celia is a Super-Mom. She dedicates her life to her family, and it shows on her Facebook page and throughout her life. In December 2020, as the Covid pandemic locked us all indoors and online, I came across Celia’s posts about getting Chloe her first Elf on a Shelf. The following is the actual transcript of entries by Celia documenting their journey. I’ve held onto a copy of these posts for years without Celia’s knowledge. This December, I finally came clean and got her permission to reprint her entries here for you.
Elf on the Shelf
A Lesson in Love
I love this story SO MUCH. It is a heartwarming and beautiful tale, brilliantly and truthfully told by a modernday mother doing all she can for her family. It has every aspect of a Hallmark movie.
Pour a cup of cocoa, sit back, and enjoy a wonderful story about the true meaning of Christmas...
Celia Llorens Guillory
November 30, 2020
So Santa finally broke down and got Clotile an Elf. Gimme the quick and dirty. I read the book and know she’s not supposed to touch it. But what happens if she does? Don’t we send it “back” to Santa? How does that work? And really, WHY ALL THE MESS WITH THESE THINGS?? I read the book, and NOWHERE does it say these damn things are supposed to get into trouble and make messes everywhere; they’re just supposed to WATCH the kids and tell Santa if they’re good or not and then come back to watch them again. Why y’all gotta be so extra?? This elf is NOT making all that damn mess over here!
Santa brought my baby her elf because we need to keep the magic as long as we can with her. Brother figured it out a while back, so mommy needs her baby a little while longer.
Celia Llorens Guillory
December 2, 2020
Omg y’all, I already failed at Elfing. Frisbee didn’t move last night because mommy crashed on the couch completely dressed last night, even wearing my coat. Santa is going to have to scold Frisbee very sternly today. And mommy is going to set an alarm for tonight. If you could have seen my baby’s face when she told me Frisbee didn’t move... God help me.
Luckily, I have a plan. This will not happen again.
Celia Llorens Guillory
December 3, 2020
RIP Frisbee. You did your best.
Chloë and I had the talk and she knows the truth. Long story long:
I don’t even know how to start other than by saying this: If you don’t have an elf yet and your kids still believe, don’t get one. If you do get one, don’t be like me. Do the following things: DON’T leave the box out with the book when your elf first arrives. I only did because it mentions a website where you can get an elf adoption certificate. If you do leave the box out, take out the twist ties that held your elf in place. And, for the love of all things Christmas, CUT THE TAGS OFF THE BACK OF YOUR ELF. It’s also probably a good idea to keep your kids off TikTok.
I went out to the store. I get back and she meets me outside with lots of questions. We defer until we get the groceries out of the car. Then she says, “I won’t be mad, just tell me the truth. Is the elf real?” After some discussion about Santa and St. Nicholas and the spirit of Christmas, I told my baby the truth.
I told her that I got her an elf because she wanted one so badly and I wanted her to be happy. I told her she is so much smarter than I ever was. I told her how sorry I was for screwing it up and that I tried to fix it. I told her how much I love her. And we held each other and cried.
She was on to us for a couple years now, but wasn’t sure. The elf not moving, along with all the other proof,
just verified it for her. But she knows not to spoil it for anyone and she knows that spreading the magic of Christmas is one way to spread Jesus’ love.
My Clotile got a little older today (well, yesterday) and she learned that mommy will do anything to make her happy. Mommy learned that sometimes, despite our best efforts, things just don’t always go to plan; but if you do your best to raise them right, you just might be surprised that you are.
When it was all said and done, I told her I love her and she replied, “I love you more.” Both my babies have always told me that. It makes my heart explode. She also put Frisbee on my pillow with a note attached that said, “your awesome mom and dad.” (Yes, I know it’s “you’re”, but that’s how she wrote it and I want to remember it how she wrote it.)
I think she’s pretty awesome. And I am so thankful God gave me her and her brother. Merry Christmas, friends. We love you.
Celia Llorens Guillory
December 8, 2020
Even though the jig is up at our house, the magic of Christmas is strong in my sweet Clotile. On her own, she decided to pass Frisbee on to a new family. She blesses me with her kind and loving heart every day. I am so very proud of her.
December 8, 2020
Started my day with a very special delivery from one of Santa’s newest helpers. A huge thank you to Chloë, Celia Llorens Guillory’s daughter, for being such a big girl and sharing her magical friend with my sweet Norah. My heart wasn’t ready for the flood of emotions I got from watching a kiddo pass her magic down to another kid to help them believe.
Slidell Magazine was EVERYWHERE last month! Here are just a few of our adventures!
The fabulous and forever-young Slidell icon, Miss Rosemary Clement, celebrates her 90th Birthday at the Senior Appreciation Luncheon in the Habor Center.
CONGRATULATIONS SUZIE !
Habitat board member Lesley Beard and City Council President Leslie Denham lead the Rosies in their first parade march in Mona Lisa & MoonPie. The Rosies distributed over 1300 roses and 3500 MoonPies to the crowd!
Slidell Magazine graphic artist Michael Bell looks on as Editor Kendra Maness & friend Bernie Friel bump bellies in a Sumo wrestling match at the Rotary Club of Slidell Northshore’s Halloween party.
Mary Gilmore and Michelle Chappuis present our friend (and soon-to-becontributing writer) Suzie Hunt with the prestigious Sliver Plume Award from Slidell Women’s Civic Club. This is the highest recognition given to an SWCC member.
Kendra & friend Rhonda Miller pose for a pic and give out copies of free magazines at the Slidell Street Fair.