Road Trip – Stop 3: Louisiana or Bust!
Since I left Oklahoma last week, my little Triumph has logged another 456 miles – I had to cut back through Texas, dodge a few more tumbleweeds but an easy drive all things compared. Today, I drop down into the south, to meet up with Becc, an ex-pat who hails from Australia and is living in Louisiana. Becc’s blog is TrueBlog! Life in Louisiana and all things Woolmerhof.
I first met Becc when she entered to win an item of mine that was part of a giveaway on another blog, back in the early spring. She tweeted about it and her excitement was so apparent that I found myself hoping as much as she was that she’d be the winner. It’s been a blogging friendship ever since, but even though she won the giveaway, I think I won too. We chat on Twitter which led us to this thing we have for Internet Cheese. If you have never had haloumi, it’s time that you join us in our obsession. So, when I set out on this epic road trip, there was no choice but to make my way down to the bayous of Louisiana and have a visit with Becc.
With Becc I have my very own personal tutor in all things AU, an accomplice in all things candy, a fellow blogger and, well, the most important a friend. The other day my son asked me ’you know where I really want to go?” I asked, where, of course. His answer? “Australia!” Then he wanted to know if there are Carnivals in Australia. I told him I had no idea but that I would ask my friend from AU if they do. His eyes got big, “YOU have a friend from Australia??” I just smiled and said, ‘yes, yes I do.’
Just to recap, in case anyone just jumped in, my summer bloggin’ road trip is all about honoring the connections we find and make through our blogs. The way this virtual visit works is - I asked Becc some questions I would likely ask her if we really got to meet in person, sitting down together at her favorite spot(s) in her hometown, so we could get to get to know each other a little bit better.
Since this is a bloggin’ road trip, we have to talk about blogging, of course. Tell me about when you got started in blogging – What was it that got you started? Did you think about it for a long time, or did you just wake up one day and think, “I’m going to start a blog”? // We thought all along that we’d be spending 2012 and 2013 back in Darwin (that’s in the North of Australia waaaay up near Indonesia!) so it came as a huge surprise when we found out that we would actually be moving to Louisiana USA. Woah! Now woolmerhof and I by ourselves really aren’t that fun, but our son F had just turned one at the time and I thought a blog would be a good idea to keep everyone updated on how we were going, what we were seeing and of course, the differences between Australia and the United States from our perspective! A blog is just so much easier than sending emails all the time – plus people don’t feel they have to respond to a blog post like they do an email (and likewise with me replying!).
How long have you been blogging now, and what would you say has surprised you the most about blogging? // We found out at the end of May 2011 that we would be moving that November, and my first post was September 13 2011. I never thought my ramblings would be interesting/funny enough to have readers apart from our friends and family. It always brings a smile to my face when I get a comment from a new reader and they enjoy what they read.
Everything has it’s challenges, are there things about being a blogger that just make you say, ugh? Things you put off or just like less than the rest of it? // I always feel pressure to write something interesting/witty often! There are days that I know we really haven’t done anything exciting for the past week, but I try super hard to write every few days. Particularly because I know so many people back home wait for blog posts and get a real kick out of reading them. I’m slowly finding ways to draw inspiration for a post, even if i’m not feeling that inspired. // I think what’s great is that the everyday things are what sometimes highlight the differences between life in the US and AU – you do a great job of sharing your observations about life here, what you find that you appreciate all the while sharing some really fun stuff that comes from home. That’s a great perspective!
What topic/topics do you enjoy blogging about the most? // I’ve always gotten really good feedback when I write about things that have happened to us. Usually a trip into the nearest town and conversing with some central Louisiana locals always brings for some good stories. If I had a dollar for every time someone had looked at us blankly or said “what!?” each time we spoke, or asked if Australia was as big as Texas (forehead slap.. it’s the same size as continental USA!) I’d be rich. Good to know someone’s amused by it, even when we have days that we’re not! // That’s hilarious, people have really asked you if AU is as big as Texas? It just dawned on me that we should have a phone conversation at some point – as with most blogging, tweeting, texting, etc, we don’t hear each others’ voices, and so I don’t hear your accent. In my mind, you sound just like me! So, what I want to know, do I sound just like you in your mind?!
I just rolled into your town…how are we going to spend the day? // There aren’t many awesomely fantastic things in Leesville…it’s a little town with a big Walmart. But, how lucky you came during the first ever summer that crawfish are available! (a girl can dream can’t she!?) Crawfish are usually available Feb until End of May. We’ll head on over to J&T’s Crawfish Shack to get some mudbugs. They’re awesome little critters pulled out of the bayou and boiled in loads of cajun spices with corn and potatoes. Northerners often joke that they use them for fishing bait, but we love them – and we’re not even locals! Kinda like a cross between a prawn and a lobster we think. You’re a true cajun if you suck the juices from the head – we do not! // I gotta be honest, you lost me at mudbugs! But, it’s a road trip, and I’m here to experience it all. We only get one spin around and I’d hate to look back and think I missed my chance with the mudbugs. But, is it ok if I keep my eyes closed?
Leesville Watermelon Stand is another summer staple. The watermelons are all home-grown from the guy’s own crop. Once the melons run out, that’s it – no trucking from interstate. They are some of the best melons I’ve ever had in my life and oh so cheap! This beauty cost 5 bucks! // Now you’re talking, I am completely on board with the watermelons!
Leesville Donuts is opposite the watermelon stand (are you sensing a theme here!?) and serves the best donuts hands down. Our friend is from Illinois and swears that her and her husband rate these donuts as the best they’ve ever tasted. The guy that owns it always greets us and asks if we want our usual – a croissant with melted cheese and an apple fritter. Perhaps we go there too often? // I don’t see any harm in supporting the local businesses in your town!
Nichols is a must see in Leesville too. Camo, hunting goods, homewares, toys as far as the eye can see! I once had a local guy abuse me in Nichols because he heard my accent and proceeded to call me a convict. The shopkeeper stood up for me though and apparently he was an “out of towner.” It has to be seen to be believed!
I should probably take you somewhere nice for dinner too – Wagon Masters Steakhouse is a great place to eat. Not fancy, just a good place to get great steaks. I love the fried pickles and I’m convinced their biscuits are the best in Louisiana. Grab your bucket of peanuts on the way in, chuck the shells on the floor and try not to eat too much before the starters come out! My pick – fried catfish and a loaded baked potato.
Even though it was an easier drive from OK to LA, I’d love to unwind – what do you say we go grab a drink? Where do you take me and what’s your favorite summer time beverage? // I wouldn’t suggest frequenting any of the “establishments” in Leesville for a drink – let me assure you, The Pegasus Club isn’t as classy as it makes itself out to be, so we’ll head on back to my place for a Gin and Tonic (aka G&T) on the porch swing.. okay.. so it’s a swinging chair on our front lawn because we don’t actually have a porch. Why G&T you ask? We drank many a G&T when we lived in tropical Darwin. It’s cool and refreshing, and is also said to be good at repelling mosquitoes because of their aversion to juniper which is the main flavouring in Gin, and Quinine which is the definitive ingredient in tonic water. I’m not sure how true that is though because I always get bitten by mozzies. Don’t worry – I have lots of insect repellant! // That sounds absolutely perfect; sitting on the swinging chair, sharing a drink with you in your own front yard. I am going to have to see if it works on CA mosquitoes, [I like mozzies better!] we have plenty of those here, and I’m willing to try anything to keep them away!
What question(s) do you have for me while we relax? // What country would you most like to visit, and what would your itinerary be? // What a great question from a travel agent! I love to travel, and the list of places I want to visit is a mile long. I learned not too long ago that I have some ancestry connections to Scotland and England, so I think I might make it a point to find my way there. I’d also love to revisit your country and see parts I missed last time, and I really want to experience places like Spain, Costa Rica, France and Norway.
So, I’m pretty hungry after a day of driving and I’ve had my fill of fast food and truck stop food. I would loooove something home cooked ; what would you fix for us to eat? // Well, since we bought that gigantic watermelon back in Leesville, and it’s currently 105 degrees outside with 90% humidity, we’re going to have a watermelon and feta salad (goes well with G&Ts too!)
Before I get back on the road, I’m going to need a good cuppa cuppa to keep me awake for the next part of my drive….where would you take me for my java fix? // As I mentioned, Leesville Donuts is a great place and what goes with Donuts..? Coffee! They serve Community Coffee which is a New Orleans brand and apart from Peets on the West Coast, it’s my favourite blend.
Tell me one surprising thing I would find out when meeting you for the first time? //In my previous life before I was an Army wife and mum who moved every two years, I was a travel agent. I’d been to the US before among many other places, but I think it’s really cool to have the opportunity to live and travel in a different country. Living somewhere is so different to just visiting and I think we’re really getting a chance to experience the proper south while living here.
It’s been an awesome stop – I want to take a souvenir home to remember my visit with you – what should I put in my trunk to take home? // Have you noticed the fleur de lis’ everywhere? That’s because it’s the symbol of Louisiana! Plenty of french influence down here! You simply must take one with you (don’t worry, you’ll find them everywhere) as well as a box of Zatarain’s Jambalaya mix so you can make it when you get home.
I’m heading out of the driveway – you toss me a CD of your favorite tunes to listen to as I roll on down the highway – what is it and what’s your favorite song on it? // Some Australians say this song should replace our National Anthem. It’s not a really boppy song – but it has great lyrics and explains some much of our history and what it means to be an Australian. The most true line from the whole song “We are one.. but we are many.. and from all the lands on earth we come.” Maybe that man in Nichols has really gotten to me!? Besides, I need to be a little patriotic right?!
Is there anything else you want to say, I’m heading out, gotta hit the road again! // So many people laughed at us when we said we were being sent to Louisiana for two years. Especially my Uncle who lives in California! We came here with open minds and were pleasantly surprised with the friendliness of the folk down here and the easygoing laid back lifestyle. Sure, the summer heat is pretty oppressive, but it’s all part of living in the South right?! We’ll no doubt be ready to go home at the end of our time here, but there will be so many things I will miss about the great state of Louisiana – it really is a “different” place. Our second baby is also due in December. // Congrats! You are a rockstar for going through a pregnancy in the dog days of summer in the south! I am so glad you were ‘sent’ to Louisiana, or we might not have met, and I am quite glad that we have! My world is bigger and better for it.
TrueBlog! is all about our life here in Louisiana and all things woolmerhof – in particular, adjusting to life in the South. I like to throw in some recipes and travel stories as well, along with an occasional rambling from myself. Oh, and you can tweet me – @woolmerhof.
I hope you stop by to meet Becc – you will be glad you did!
Becc, I tucked in a little something for you. I left it under the swinging chair on your front lawn. Thank you so much for hosting my most southern stop on my road trip and showing me such great hospitality! Yes, even the mudbugs!
So, as I roll on down the highway, where am I headed next? Here is your next hint: it is a state capital. What, that doesn’t narrow it down enough? Ok, this city entered the 20th century with one of the world’s first successful electric streetcar systems.
Thanks for riding along, and until next time, safe travels of all kinds…
…wheels, heart, mind and soul
…about two great twitter and blogging resources!
I went to my first Twitter Party the other night. Well, by went, I mean I walked from the kitchen to the living room and sat on the couch, in attire not worthy of a quick run to the grocery store. Food for the event was comfort-food themed, also known as a typical thrown together weeknight dinner of baked chicken and mac-n-cheese.
In two hours time, I tweeted, replied, re-tweeted, mentioned and messaged. I think. My brain and my fingers couldn’t seem to move fast enough, but I got into the groove of it and I was so grateful to the other @’s who were honest enough to say this was their first twitter party too. I didn’t feel like the only one over in the corner with whiplash as tweets flew by left and right.
This tweeting thing is all new to me; if three weeks ago, you had told me I’d be at a twitter party, I would have laughed and then asked you to please speak English. But I have to admit, it was really fun. @digitwirl and @inteledge hosted a great evening featuring fun tech gadget gifts, and anyone who knows me well, knows I love the gadgets. The only thing better? Winning one!
I’m on a steep learning curve with the intricate web of social networking that goes hand in hand with having an Etsy shop. I asked myself the other day if I would have gone down this Etsian road if I had known about all the tweeting, blogging, digging, stumbling, kaboodling, and pinning that is behind it all. I thought I would just be making widgets in my kitchen. I might have been scared off before starting, it is a lot to learn, and it’s one of those things where the more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.
Thankfully, for newbies like me, it’s not lonely journey. There are some great resources out there for new tweeters and/or bloggers like me. The network is so intricate and interwoven, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where I found them but I am so glad I found these two particular resources.
The first one I stumbled across while digging through links to find some direction, is Handmadeology – the Science of Handmade. Tim at Handmadeology is amazing and runs a great blog, but even more so are his e-courses. They are written for the person who knows little to nothing except for the one important fact that they need to know a lot more. The courses are paced out one day at a time with information broken into manageable chunks that are easy to understand and put into practice. Each one builds upon the next and I find myself just waiting until the next day’s lesson arrives.
Through the 5 day course called Social Media Blitz, I realized that I had to get on Twitter. Well, actually use the account I set up a few years ago. And actually Tweet. To be honest, this scared me. For a pretty tech savvy gal, for some reason, Twitter eluded me. But I got on the bus and kept reading. I created a Facebook page, set up accounts with StumbleUpon, Tumblr and a few other networks. Stealing moments where I could, in between working, momming and just living, and making those widgets, I read every word. Through his email newsletter, I found out about the Twitter Blueprint e-course. In one of the first days, he wrote, “The best way to build followers is to follow others. Most likely they will follow you back.” I didn’t believe it. But, I did it. And, guess what? He was right. Of course. In two days time, my number of followers more than doubled. I have a long way to go, but, I am going. Thanks Tim!
Through Twitter, I stumbled upon a fantastic blogging blog, called SuccessfulBlogging from Annabel Candy who’s twitter handle is appropriately @bloggingmentor. Her blog offers countless tips and strategies for improving your blog and using Twitter. In that Twitter way, I found her, followed her and yes, she followed me back [thank you!]. Not long after, a few interactions occurred, which is old hat to Twitter Pros, but to this TweetBabe, I was thrilled. It led to her taking a look at my Etsy shop, tweeting out my infant blog, [yes this one!] and it all came together for me. It was almost as she and Handmadeology were working in cahoots to drive home the point of how powerful this network is. I knew it here [me, pointing to my head] but now I really get it [me giving you an a-ha moment face].
Thanks Tim and Annabel.
Do you have a great blog, website, tip or resource that you think I should know about? Share it here. And, yes, I will tweet it.