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Around Louisiana

Regional Reports from across the state complied and edited by jeanne frois

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Lake Days

Lying near the charming antebellum town of Homer, Lake Claiborne State Park is an almost-secret haven of piney hills wherein wildlife glides and prances and clear sparkling water teems with fish. Waterside charm is prevalent in vacation life at Lake Claiborne. The lake was created not so long ago when Bayou D’Arbonne was dammed. This state park offers 87 campsites for RV devotees and for campers who like to pitch a tent. Large, airy vacation cabins are another beneficent way to enjoy days that travel to the peaceful rhythm of flowing water. The air is filled with the silken sounds of rustling trees and plaintive birdsong. The area is a paradise for birders because it’s easy to spot the bright colors of birds glowing against the deep greenery like Christmas ornaments as you amble beneath tall trees across a footbridge that spans meandering water.

You may bring your own boat or enjoy the sparkling lake on one of the rentals provided. Test your balancing skills by paddling in one of the canoes, or head to one of the primitive campsites. Personally, paddling in a canoe isn’t complete to me without at least one capsize, but you might see it differently. However, a dip in this pristine water would not be a calamity — both fishermen and ecologists alike have acclaimed the water quality. Fishermen also love the lake’s abundance of largemouth and striped bass, bluegill sunfish, white perch, catfish and black crappie.

If you want to work off some of that fried fish you’ve consumed, hiking trails offer a fine opportunity to stretch your legs and open your soul. Trails that bear the beautiful names of Dogwood Nature, White Tail and Muscadine help to intimately acquaint you with Mother Nature, and the pronounced purity of the clear lake water makes swimming a total joy. A sandy beach is set in an inlet of the lake, clear of boaters and water-skiers, providing some of the finest swimming to be had.

Picnic tables, barbecue grills and laundry facilities are available. The cabins also provide old-fashioned Franklin stoves for warmth.

Park naturalists are on hand to give guided nature treks and expose you to nature programs.

Lake Claiborne reminds me of a wonderful summer visit to relatives who lived on the banks of a large, wooded lake in South Carolina. Those were days I swung in a hammock strung between two pine trees on the edge of the lake and pondered the blue sky above me. Mornings were spent in the wonderful paralysis of fishing; exhilarating afternoons were spent flooring a speedboat while my cousin trailed behind me on water skis. After that, there were peaceful rides on a pontoon boat at sunset accompanied by beer and good company. We’d return home for dinners of fresh cornmeal-fried fish (just caught that morning), crisp salad, molasses-baked beans crusted with bacon and vegetables that came from the farm down the road, and then we’d sit on the porch in the moonlight watching the silhouette of a crane pick its way along the darkened lake banks.

Everyone should experience that at least once in his or her life.

Lake Claiborne State Park, 225 State Park Road,
Homer, (888) 677-2524,


Much Ado About Lunch

With its imaginative food offerings –– some arriving at your table with fascinating presentation –– Bella Fresca Restaurant remains a sumptuous place to experience dinner. This Shreveport eatery also consistently shows it’s no slouch when it comes to midday dining pleasure. Lunchtime appetizers get you off to a fine start: the coral spice of shrimp rémoulade served with crisp fried green tomatoes or grilled flatbread holding the delectable flavors of smoked salmon in dill-and-caper cream, the sweet pungency of red onion thrown in for good measure.

The selection of entrées makes it hard to choose — perhaps the state of the weather outside might guide you — but consider a New York strip steak chicken-fried with sides of haricots verts and mashed potatoes if you’re really hungry. Sesame seared tuna salad infused with basil vinaigrette and the heat of ginger and wasabi makes a decided Thai statement. For complete dining divinity, you may savor the fried green tomato BLT perfectly complemented by horseradish cream or the tender filet mignon burger with either blue or cheddar cheese. If you’re super- hungry and don’t have to return to work, braised pot roast with garlic mashed potatoes and grilled broccollini will more than satisfy you. The crab cake burger, spiced with chipotle rémoulade dressing, is unforgettable. Sides include parmesan truffle fries, shaved asparagus and jambalaya risotto cakes.

Bella Fresca Restaurant, 6307 Line Ave., Shreveport, (318) 865-6307


“Solomon in All His Glory…”

One spring twilight evening when I was walking through a shaded neighborhood also designated as a bird sanctuary, I smelled a wonderful fragrance that I traced to a double row of Easter lilies in front of a house. In the spring gloaming, it was an enchanting sight.

By some strange twist of personality that makes me procrastinate to perform housework but never hesitate to help clean and decorate a church, I know that the advent of April means it’s time to deck altars with potted Easter lilies. Sales of these potted beauties are going to boom.

Unfortunately, soon after Easter, the flowers will die and be thrown out. Potted Easter lilies, however, are among the easiest flowers to transplant into Mother Earth.

These white flowers have a long history and are mentioned many times in the Bible. Legend says that when Eve left the Garden of Eden, white lilies sprang from the ground where her repentant tears fell.

Trumpet-shaped, they seem to embody spiritual triumph. They have been called the “white-robed apostles of hope” after they were found growing in the Garden of Gethsemane following the agony of Jesus, who himself advised us to wisely consider the lilies of the field, toiling and spinning not. According to him, even King Solomon couldn’t compare to their glory.

It’s easy to keep this symbol of the resurrection alive after the flower has died by keeping the plant safe in the container until all threat of frost is gone. Then transplant it to rich, well-drained soil in full sunlight; by the time summer arrives, the plant will die off naturally, as the bulb lies dormant underground. During autumn, bulb fertilizer should be applied by carefully working it into the soil without disturbing the bulb. Blood meal is an effective alternative to be applied on top of the soil. Although some transplanted Easter lilies wait another year to bloom, by the time late spring rolls around, your garden should be filled with their snowy, statuesque trumpets perfuming the air as they shed golden-yellow pollen from their centers.

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