Tales of Road and Sky: Vacation Trip Reports

The Places In The Home gang will not be taking a vacation until later this year, so to feed my traveling jones I’m living vicariously through vacation trip reports from readers, friends and family this summer.


Thanks to the tales of road and sky journaled through the lenses of varied mobile device cameras, I’ve traveled to Tennessee, North Carolina, Crete, Las Vegas, Toronto, Cocoa Beach, Destin, Georgia,  Seattle and New Orleans.

Incoming vacation trip reports show the traveling masses are living up to my travel motto.


I called our son this morning to ask if he would mind me posting this picture of him and his girlfriend from their June trip to Las Vegas.

He thought about it for a minute and in his characteristically witty manner replied, “You have my Viva Las Vegas permission.”

J&K VegasBellagio Conservatory & Botancial Gardens, Las Vegas, Nevada

A picture tells the story long after the vacation ends.

Crete1Balos Beach Crete, Greece

The intended purpose of a vacation is fun,


Lake-BurtonLake Burton, Georgia

and fun is always in style.


A fun accent piece makes for an interesting conversation piece, a fun night out with friends knocks at the door of nice to see you again, and a punch of fun color shows off the ever appropriate sense of spontaneity.

Eiffel-tower1Eiffel Tower – Paris Hotel

Music is the ultimate traveling companion. It’s the soundtrack memories dance to.

I put as much thought into selecting our travel tunes as I do the travel itinerary.  It’s very High Fidelity.  

Gosh, what is it with me and movies references this week?

The music we travel to stays on the mind and the memory, and believe me, I speak from experience.

My dad decided one extended summer trip many summers ago that since he was a Willie Nelson fan the entire family was going to become Willie Nelson fans, like it or not.

Before the seat belts were buckled and the tires had cleared the driveway our self-appointed travel DJ popped Stardust by Willie Nelson into the cassette player (told you it was many moons ago).

The cassette played and played over the mountains and through the woods all the way to grandmother’s house and back.

As much as we bitched and protested about it then, we have never forgotten that trip nor that album.

To bring it all home, guess what comes in as my number one  playlist starred under travel tunes?

The music is good, but the memories are what makes it great.

Where are you going on your next vacation?

What music will be making your travel playlist?

Love your style!

The Myrtles: Inspiration, History and Mystery

In the daily meeting with the Places In The Home creative team (me, myself and I), quiet and centered thought bring forth ideas.

Sometimes it all runs together, and at other times the ideas and interest flow like the mighty Mississippi River.

There’s a world of inspiration out there folks!

I love the search, especially when it is right here at home.

October is a great month for antiquing, fall road trips, and home tours.

Several fall October weekends ago, Dave the Builder, the Canadian snowbird (our son), and I set out on an intrigue packed afternoon and evening fondly referred to as The Myrtles: Inspiration, History, and Mystery.

antique sideboard

Working for family is a trick and a treat.

I set the tone for a blissful and professional working relationship right off the bat, and we’re off and decorating.

My brother is once again enlisting my help in redecorating his den and foyer.

He didn’t realize he also wants to freshen up his dining room decor until I insisted gently persuaded him to do so.

formal dining room

His circa 1903 home is one of the few Victorian turret architecture examples in the state.

Staying true to the period is an absolute must on the exterior for historical purposes however, I am allowed to blur the lines when it comes to the interior.

Small changes and edits keep the bottom line affordable and in check with current styles.

Changing the neutral color palette is off limits.

He loves it, and it flows with the historical aspect of the home.

table lampsclick on image to enlarge

New lamps for the sideboard and replacing the dining room chairs ( bad, very bad) is first on the list.

He has tried his best to get his hands on the balustrade lamp Dave the Builder made for me.

Brother dear, that is not going to happen.

This is the reason I sourced lamps in a more sophisticated image of my lamp for his consideration.

We will also be paying attention to new curtains-drapes or perhaps just embellishing the exiting ones with trim or tassels.

A new area rug is on the list,  and we will definitely be lowering the artwork and framed photos.

Essential to the art of the hang, consideration has to be given to ceiling height, proportion of the space, and overall balance when placing artwork.

Placing items and photographing the space for reference reminded me of the details surrounding the silver lazy susan with double turned malachite handles atop the sideboard.

St. Francisville, Louisiana is a charming town rich in history and historical sites.

My brother is a history buff who really appreciates the architecture of historical homes.  He enthusiastically believes no trip to St. Francisville is complete without a tour of The Myrtles Plantation.

The Myrtles PlantationMyrtles Plantation

The Myrtles Plantation  is not without national media attention.

Referred to as one of “America’s Most Haunted Homes”, The Myrtles has been the subject of interest, articles and television documentaries from Veranda, Travel and Leisure, The New York Times, History Channel, and the one I most remember, the visit with cameras rolling from Oprah Winfrey.


The Front Porch – Myrtles Plantation

As visitors make their way up the winding driveway to the entrance of the circa 1796 Antebellum mansion, distinctive features such as the brick courtyard, double dormers, and the lacy wrought iron wrapped front veranda captures the eye.


Front Porch View of the Grounds of The Myrtles Plantation

I could sit on the veranda in the large rocking chairs staring out at the moss draped live oaks and lush grounds for hours.

One Saturday afternoon and evening fifteen years ago, I did just that.

Photos of Myrtles Plantation, Saint Francisville

Dave the Builder, our son and I were in Baton Rouge on a working vacation of sorts.

My brother suggested we drive over to St. Francisville and New Roads to check out the sites, the tastes, and to tour The Myrtles.

He asked me to pay close attention to the silver lazy susan in the dining room of the Myrtles with the request for me to try to find him one in our treasure hunt rounds.

With travel weather seasonally perfect, down Hwy. 61 we go.

Upon arrival in St. Francisville, we decided to have lunch at the Carriage House Restaurant on the grounds of the Myrtles Plantation (regrettably now permanently closed due to a fire).

The Carriage House Restaurant at The Myrtles PlantationCarriage House

Our waitress asked if this was our first time to The Myrtles.

She highlighted the history of the town, suggested must visit shops, and highly suggested we take the Saturday evening Myrtles Mystery Tour.

The Mystery Tour is held on Friday and Saturday nights, and is touted as the opportune time for Chloe, the reported ghost known to inhabit the house and grounds of The Myrtles, to make an appearance.

Our son was captivated, my curiosity piqued, and Dave the Builder weighed in with an approving why not on a Louisiana Saturday night.

I made reservations for the three of us for the 7:00 pm tour, and we left the grounds highly anticipating our return.

In part two of Three Part Harmony: Inspiration, History and Mystery, I’ll tell the tale of Chloe, recount our ferry trip to New Roads and the infamous Miss Emily, shopping, champagne punch, and the fun and fright of the Mystery Tour.



In A Small Town: Natchitoches, Louisiana

Today’s Natchitoches, Louisiana post is an updated version in tribute to Natchitoches being chosen Best Southern Small Town by USA Today readers. Visit Natchitoches once and you will come to know why this comes as no surprise to me. 

It’s the time of year for travel.

Vacations, staycations, and day trips refresh our recreating souls, renew connections, and give us ideas to implement into our home decor.

Natchitoches (NACK-uh-tush) was established by the French in 1714, and is the oldest permanent settlement in the 13 state territory Louisiana Purchase.

French and Spanish forts, historical homes, national historic landmarks, bed and breakfasts, antique shops, and fantastic restaurants line the original brick Front Street.

Historic Front Street in Natchitoches, Louisiana

Historic Front Street in Natchitoches, Louisiana

One of my favorite shops to visit on historic Front Street is Kaffie-Frederick, Inc., General Mercantile.

Kaffie-Frederick is the oldest general store in Louisiana. The front door swings open to a blast from the past decor full of charm, hardware, tools, classic toys and utensils all in I remember these splendor.

Natchitoches is the hometown of  writer, producer and film director Robert Harling.

Robert Harling is best known as the writer of the play, Steel Magnolias.

Rooted in location and hometown authenticity, Natchitoches was the star of the South for a brief period of time in 1988 when Hollywood came calling.

Excitement surrounding the filming was a statewide topic of conversation, and the memories of the stars and their time spent weaving in and out of the local landscape a souvenir program in Louisiana film history.

Taylor-Cook home, better known as The Steel Magnolia House, remains one of the most recognizable and popular historic homes in downtown Natchitoches.

Many moonlight tour of homes ago, Dave the Builder purchased tickets to the Natchitoches Fall Pilgrimage Tour of Homes as a surprise birthday gift to me.

Steel Magnolia House Natchitoches Louisiana

Steel Magnolia House – Natchitoches, Louisiana

 Candlelight and cocktails themed evening tours of Taylor-Cook aka the Steel Magnolia House was a party not to be forgotten.

Several hundred guests strolled the grounds and toured the home filled with period antiques tastefully paired with stylish accents while sipping cocktails by moonlight, music and magnolias.


Natchitoches, Louisiana knows how to throw a good party.

Clockwise from top left: Taylor-Cook House, Front Street, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Melrose Plantation

Roque House (circa 1797)

Roque House (circa 1797)

Big_House_at_Melrose_Plantation_-_east_elevationBig House at Melrose Plantation

One of my favorite artist, African-American folk artist Clementine Hunter (late December 1886 or early January 1887 – January 1, 1988) is closely associated with Natchitoches.

Miss Hunter was born near Cloutierville, Louisiana, moving to Melrose Plantation when she was fifteen years old.

Clementine Hunter (pronounced Clementeen) was a self-taught artist who painted from memory.

Clementine Hunter photo

Clementine was encouraged to paint and locally promoted by Melrose plantation curator, François Mignon.

Clementine_Hunter_-_The_Wash_-_91.88.2_-_Minneapolis_Institute_of_ArtsThe Wash – Clementine Hunter

The subjects of her paintings portray plantation life as it were in the early 20th century.

Although most of her works are untitled, the subject would be verbally described by the artist herself when asked.

Clementine_Hunter_-_Picking_Cotton_-_91.88.1_-_Minneapolis_Institute_of_ArtsPicking Cotton – Clementine Hunter

In the early days of her painting dating to the 1940s, Clementine Hunter sold her works for a quarter. Her paintings can now sell for thousands of dollars.

Estimates show Clementine Hunter painted between four and five thousand paintings in her lifetime.

Miss Hunter continued to live in Northwest Louisiana until her death in 1988.

Cane River view downtown Natchitoches

Cane River

Picturesque Cane River runs through downtown Natchitoches.  

On the first weekend of December, Natchitoches illuminates the Southern night sky in a festive Christmas festival firework spectacular.

Approximately 150,000 visitors descend on the small town to experience this annual festival of lights, a tradition that ushers in the holiday season.  

Louisiana is known for its regional cuisine, and the Natchitoches Meat Pie is a Southern delicacy dating back to the late 1700s.

classic Natchitoches meat pies

Natchitoches Meat Pies are deep-fried pastries filled with ground beef and ground pork seasoned with onions, peppers, and garlic also known as the Cajun trinity.

Classic Natchitoches Meat Pie 


2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided, plus more for frying

½ pound ground beef

½ pound ground pork

1 teaspoon dried oregano

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

½ cup minced yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

2 Meat Pie Dough (recipe follows)

1 large egg

2 tablespoons water


In a small Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add beef, pork, oregano, salt, red pepper, black pepper, and cayenne.  Cook, stirring frequently, until meat is browned and crumbly, about 6 minutes.

Drain any excess liquid.  Sprinkle with flour, and stir to combine.

In a large saucepan, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat.
Add onion; cook until tender, about 2 minutes.

Add garlic, bell pepper, and celery; cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir into meat mixture.  Let cool completely.

Reserve 12 pieces for another use.  On a lightly floured surface, roll 28 pieces of dough to a 5½-inch circle, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Using a 5-inch round cutter, cut rounds from each piece of dough.  In a small bowl, whisk together egg and 2 tablespoons water.

Place 2 tablespoons filling in center of each round.  Lightly brush edges with egg wash.  Fold dough over filling, and press to seal.

Using a fork, crimp along edges of pie. Using a pastry wheel, cut along edges to further seal.

Freeze pies before frying.

In a large Dutch oven, pour oil to a depth of 4 inches, and heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 370°.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels, and place a wire rack on top.
Remove pies from freezer.

Using a slotted spoon, gently place pies, 3 at a time, in hot oil.  Fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.

Remove from oil, and let drain on prepared pan.

Makes 28.

Meat Pie Dough


5 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 ½ teaspoons salt

1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder

¾ cup lard

2 large eggs

1 ½ cups whole milk


In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.
Using a pastry blender or 2 forks, cut in lard until mixture is crumbly.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and milk.  Pour egg mixture over flour mixture, and lightly toss with your hands until a dough starts to form.  Knead together twice, and let rest for 10 minutes.

Cover and refrigerate until using.

Makes 14.

-Louisiana Cookin’

Southern hospitality flows through the town like the Cane River and the welcome mat is always out.

Natchitoches, Louisiana is a great destination for day tripping, a weekend getaway or a stay for a week or two visit.


Vacation Memories of Sunny Las Vegas and Snowy Gatlinburg

My mind is on vacation memories, especially on this supposed winter day in January.

I popped over to weather.com to verify these weird Louisiana temperatures  and the question on the homepage reads, “Where is winter?”

Well, it’s not in Louisiana, Jim Cantore!

I never know if it’s going to be an allergy medicine and hot tea with lemon or iced tea with lemon and flip flops kind of day.

I like a climate that can make its mind up.

Las Vegas Temperature Paris

Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino

In an effort to convince my internal thermometer it’s not losing its mind, I’m going to take a couple of trips down vacation memories lane.

Bellagio fountains

Las Vegas, Nevada plays a big role in my family’s travel portfolio.  We’ve been going out to our favorite desert oasis since the mid-’70s.

For most of the year Las Vegas definitely lives up to its reputation as the great blow dryer in the desert.

We quickly acclimate to the temps and keep moving.

Dan TannaRobert Urich as the handsome and smooth private eye, Dan Tanna

We have great memories from over the years.

Remember this guy?

The year was 1979, and my mother was approached by Robert Urich, who starred as private eye Dan Tanna in the television series Vega$.  

My parents were staying at the Desert Inn where the series location was set.

Mr. Urich spotted my mother on the patio of the villa my parents were staying in, and he walked up to her, introduce himself, and invited her to be his guest on set for the day.  

Talk about a memory!


My lovely mother and Robert Urich on set together at the Desert Inn- 1979

We’ve seen the glitz and glamour of days past and the shorts and sandals scene of the current Vegas.

We have stayed in fabulous hotels, witnessed hotel implosions, and marveled at the reinvention of the Strip. 

We’ve seen fantastic entertainers and shows, attended prize fights, met many wonderful locals, and dined at gourmet restaurants, retro coffee shops and all night cafes.  

Caesars Palace Las Vegas

One of the best concerts was the Sheryl Crow and James Blunt concert at Planet Hollywood, August 2008.

I am listening to Spotify as I type this and guess what song is playing?

“Favorite Mistake” by Sheryl Crow.

Love it!

Sheryl Crow

Seeing a Don Rickles performance in Vegas is classic.

Dave the Builder begs me not to put us on the first four rows.  He fears Mr. Rickles will choose him as subject matter.

The first time we saw his show was in 1990 downtown at the Golden Nugget.

We were running late for the show which caused us to be seated in the very back of the showroom.

Dave could not contain his relief.

On our 2010 trip, Mr. Rickles was in town performing in the Orleans showroom.  I placed a lucky phone call to the showroom box office and scored second row seats dead in the center of the showroom.

Poor Dave, he was a nervous wreck until right before show time.

Thankfully,  two guys were seated directly in front of us which ran interference for us as comedy targets.

Did Rickles pick them out?

Picked them out and plucked their good-natured bones clean.

Don Rickles was a class act.

Don Rickles

Tipping our hats to The Hangover.

I took this photo of Treasure Island from the underground valet pick-up area at Palazzo after seeing Jersey Boys.

Treasure Island Las Vegas

Lunching at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Seafood.

I love the idea of a bread basket presentation.

bread basketDave the Builder ordered Joe’s famous scallops and roasted corn.

The reviews are in, and Joe’s gets a rave!

Joe's scallops

I went with Joe’s classic filet and broiled tomato.

filet mignon

Scenes from Sunday brunch at Border Grill.

Carne asada quesadilla for me.

Border Grill Las Vegas

Fish tacos ensenada for Dave.

This dish rendered the man speechless, and that ain’t easy.

That’s a nice way of saying he did not utter one word during the meal.

He was busy stuffing his face with the best fish tacos he’s ever eaten.

fish tacos

Now we’re talking!

Two half slices of dessert heaven- pineapple upside-down cake and tres leches.

tres leches

The breakfast of neon champions!

Note to self: make it a point to find out who is responsible for coming up with the brilliant and convenient concept of room service and send them a thank you note.

room service


In and Out Burger

Without a doubt, The Beatles LOVE is one of the most entertaining and touching shows on the strip.

The musical tour of the Beatles biggest hits celebrated in Cirque du Soleil splendor is magical.

Mirage Hotel

The view of the mountains and the runways at McCarran Airport is as beautiful to me as the neon lights of the strip.

McCarran Airport

We are now leaving the 100+ temps of the desert for Winterfest in the Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Wintertime in the Smokies guarantees brr it’s cold! fun at a relaxed pace.

Ober Gatlinburg

We spent an entire afternoon driving through Cades Cove.

Cades Cove

The deer and turkeys came out in record numbers, and photographers with cameras were as well.

Smokey Mountains

wild turkey

These two very vocal and confrontational geese hang out in the parking lot at the Apple Barn Cider Mill.

These two stay busy greeting the visitors.

Apple Barn Mill

The roaring waters throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will command your attention.

Our quaint, cozy, and tranquil home away from home.

Johnson's Inn

These signs line the road home to Tennessee.

For over forty years, as soon as we would spot a “See Rock City” sign we knew we were getting close to our grandparents house.

Good memories.

See Rock City

Vacations serve a wonderful purpose, and our Las Vegas and Gatlinburg, Tennessee vacations deliver fun.

A vacation, staycation, or getaway gives us a break from our normal routines and comfort zones, and gives us an opportunity to reconnect with each other while making lasting vacation memories.

I heard a commercial for Pure Michigan that says, “When we get to a place where no one knows us, we become most ourselves.”

Beautifully stated.

Love your style!







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