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And Now For Something Completely Different… November 26, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Family, Friends.
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a little Thanksgiving day cheer. So, I have been thoroughly enjoying filling y’all in on my amazing adventures on Avery Island, but Thanksgiving always holds a special place for a bit of introspection and the “Today I’m thankful for’s”. And well, today, as always, I am most assuredly thankful for, but missing, my wonderful and amazing family for their generous support and encouragement. But at the same time so I am most assuredly thankful for new friends that have most graciously made me a part of their wonderful and amazing families. No doubt that I am a truly blessed creature roaming the wetlands of south Louisiana.

And so my friends, I wish you the most amazing day today and everyday, and thank you from deep within for your friendship, love, memories, encouragement, and the countless gifts that you have so freely given to me. I know that my German blood often makes me a little too stingy with the “I love you’s” and all that warm and fuzzy stuff, but please know that I do indeed love and appreciate you. Dig in and enjoy my friends!!! And never forget that tomorrow may be too late to tell those you love that you do and why you do.

And I’ll take my leave now as I have a date with some redfish before my date with some turkey and gravy. Cheers!

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A Three Hour Tour… November 10, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Coastal Restoration, Family, Friends, Hurricanes, Louisiana Wildlife.
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So I was worried that the weather was going to start getting rough and our tiny ships would be tossed, but lady luck was on our side over night. Thank goodness cause I absolutely, positively, did not want to have to don my shrimp boots and grab my shovel to start slinging mud. I’d much rather save that kind of activity for planting marsh plants. Anyway, hope Ida didn’t wreak too much havoc to our friends and neighbors to the east.

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So as I mentioned in my previous post, I was pretty excited to have had the opportunity to spend a bit of time with my MiddleSis, my favorite brother-in-law Tom (yep, he’s my only bro-in-law, but definitely my favorite even when he wasn’t the only one) and some pretty darn cool friends in New Orleans last week. I was even more excited that a few of these folks made their way over to Terrebonne for a few adventures on Friday.

Our first stop was at one of the local daycare centers that my co-worker John (aka Papa John) works with through our Project Learn program. Papa John works tirelessly to make sure “his kids” have what they need and does an outstanding job of promoting family literacy by providing computers, books, and every kind of educational material he can get his hands on.

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The purpose of our trip to the daycare was to see the outstanding work they’re doing in person and to deliver some very special stuffed animals and books. Kids from First Presbyterian of Plymouth, MI and First Presbyterian of Pontiac, MI spent some time this summer making the cutest stuffed turtles with very special messages tucked carefully inside for their friends in the bayous. The kids enjoyed receiving the turtles, but we had way more fun chatting and playing with the little ones. A big thanks to Papa John, Pam and her outstanding staff for the important work you do for our community.

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Keeping a careful eye on my watch, it was time to tear my friends away from their new friends and head on down the bayou for a little lunch at Schmoopy’s. YUM is all I got to say bout that! I wasn’t too sure we’d be able to pull Tom away from the kids however and might have to pick him up on the way back, but we enticed him with the promise of a delicious vegetarian grilled cheese sandwich.

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After lunch it was time hook up with Captain Wendy, board the Wetlandtours tooner, and head out on the water. And oh what a beautiful day it was for that. Lows 70s, perfectly sunny, and a nice bayou breeze to keep the bugs at bay.

We saw some bad and ugly…

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but thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful…

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and got a great education about wetland wildlife, plants, history, and culture.

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We also learned a lot about land loss, how we got to this point, how the bayou people are affected by it, and what we can do to fix it. We even had time to relax, explore and chat with some amazing scenery as our backdrop.

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And before we knew it, it was time to bid adieu, but we’re definitely looking forward to taking in some more sights on their next trip in March. But if you’re thinking about a trip down the bayou, don’t wait and be sure to give Captain Wendy a shout. Whether you’re looking to take in the sights, try your fishing line, or learn about bayou culture, you won’t be sorry.

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And unfortunately, this isn’t exactly the scene I wanted to see on my way back to my home on wheels…

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but such is the cycle of life in the Louisiana wetlands.

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Out of Chaos, Hope. Out of Love, Shrimp Spaghetti. November 5, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Family, Friends, Relief Work.
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So a couple of days ago I had the distinct honor of heading over to New Orleans with my good buddy Kevin to help cook up a mess o’ vittles for some amazing folks from Michigan (Go Blue!), and Montana (Go whatever your team is called. Do you even have enough people to play football?), and Pennsylvania (OK, love JoePa, but that’s as far as I can go with that).

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These folks have given up a week to come and help victims of Hurricane Katrina rebuild their lives, their communities, and their wonderful city. Some of these great people have done this nine times in the past four years and change in various places from Pearlington, MS to New Orleans to my very own bayou communities south of Houma.

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As I got the chance to tour the area and see some of the amazing work they’re doing, I also got to see how much work is still left to do. But it gives me great hope to know that groups such as these are committed to coming back as often as they can to see the job through even when some of their friends and family up north and out west and out east don’t understand that we’re not all better down here yet and won’t be for many years to come.

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So as Kevin and I started getting ready to roll up our sleeves and feed some very hungry people, I thought, hey, I’ve never done a cooking post. And if you think you’re going to learn how to cook Shrimp Spaghetti for dinner tonight, well, you’d be wrong. Not that I don’t want to share the recipe, but I doubt most of you are planning family dinner for 50 tonight. But I will give you a little blow by blow action anyway and you can probably figure out how to do this for more normal portions.

So first we gathered up a few ingredients.

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Can’t forget the shrimp. And of course, it goes without saying that you need to make sure that’s some pure, wild-caught Louisiana shrimp. Demand the best!

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And now to start the roux. OK, I admit, some bayou people look at me in horror when I say that I start my shrimp spaghetti with a roux. Others just nod their heads. Yep, of course you start with a roux. To each his own. The proof is in the pudding so to speak and well, I think this pudding is mighty tasty. I always say, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it, but you’ll be sorry.

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Now, this roux is not for the limp-wristed. We got three kinds of roux down the bayou–the one, two, and three beer rouxs. But since I was at a Presbyterian Disaster Assistance camp, I had to settle for the three lemonade variety. Some funky music is also helpful, but I left my iPod out in the car and once you start, you can’t stop.

So you basically stir, stir, stir and stir some more until it’s a nice dark brown. And then stir a little longer.

Actually, don’t tell anyone, but this roux really isn’t dark enough, but we were on a tight schedule and I started to panic.

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Anyway, while you’re pouring all that love in to your roux, it’s wonderful to have a good buddy around for interesting conversation and to cut up all that delicious andouille sausage.

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Alright, time to throw in the trinity. And you bet we cheated. You know how long it takes to chop up enough onion, green pepper, celery, parsley, and garlic for an army?

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Alright, after that’s smothered down, throw in some more garlic, some Ro-Tel and that beautiful andouille. But don’t forget your vegetarian friends out there and transfer some of that yummy goodness to another pot before the sausage hits the fire. Why anyone would want to voluntarily deprive themselves of andouille is beyond me, but cest la vie.

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Smother that down some more and pour in the sauce. Whole tomatoes are probably better, but I’m just not a big fan of tomato chunks (yeah, it’s just a weird texture thing I got) so y’all are just going to have to live with it.

Now, that roux is going to make it real thick, so add in some water.

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Throw in your spices. I’m a big fan of Tony’s, crab boil, and any good Italian seasoning blend. Drop in a few bay leaves and viola. Just let it simmer a good bit.

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About 15-20 minutes before dinner, turn up the heat, throw in the shrimp, bring to a quick, low boil, turn off the heat and eat! Oh yeah, don’t forget the spaghetti. And really, don’t trust those “suggested” serving sizes on the package. Double it. And if you’re cooking for a team of folks who’ve been out hammering and mudding and grouting and painting and shingling all day, triple it. Thank goodness for leftover frozen spaghetti in the freezer that we could make quick work of warming up. Live and learn!

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And I even got the sister seal of approval which is a big deal since she thinks most of my meals come out of a box. Happy birthday Sue!!! You rock!!!

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And yes, hearing my super amazing MiddleSis try to pronounce Tchoupitoulas was wonderful and brought back memories of my first attempt at it!

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Momster Photog October 30, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Family, Photography.
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So on my recent coastal advocacy trip to the Chicagoland area, I had the pleasure of spending a little time with the Momster, BigSis and MediumSis. I took this pic with the Momster’s camera and asked her to send it to me. Where was my camera? Um…good question.

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Anyway, when I got the email with the photo, I was pleasantly surprised to find a few additional photos attached of the fall colors at what I consider one of the most beautiful places in the world–Gun Lake. So today I want to welcome my first guest photographer–the one, the only, my beautiful Mother. I learned from the best Mommie Dearest (and yes I know some of you think it’s not very nice of me to call my dearest mother Mommie Dearest, but no joke, this is how she signs all of her letters to me!) Thanks Mom! Love you!

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Many Miles to Go October 20, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Coastal Restoration, Family, Friends, Photography, Travels.
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So I’ve been on the road over the last week and still have many miles to go before I sleep (and go fishing). But while I’ve thoroughly enjoyed scenes such as these…

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I’m thoroughly missing scenes like these.

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It’s Official… August 30, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Family.
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Matthew is a big brother to a not-so-little, little sister. Alyssa Rose made her debut on Friday weighing in at a whopping 9 lbs. 15 oz. Geez, I don’t feel old enough to have all these grand nieces and nephews. A big congratulations to Clint, Carol, Matthew, Maggie and the rest of the clan. Not sure if that dune buggy is going to hold them all. Grandpa Thom might need to start working on fashioning a trailer hitch for that buggy of his.

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Traditions July 6, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Family, Travels.
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Ahhhh…..vacation. It’s a beautiful word. And even more beautiful because I’m spending it in one of my favorite places on Earth. Forty-nine years ago, my parents bought a little piece of property on Gun Lake, built a small summer cottage, and now almost five decades later, four generations of the Huhn clan gather here as often as they can.

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The 4th of July is always special, and I dare say that it is one of my favorite holidays ever. Fireworks on Independence Day Eve…

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followed by the Ring of Fire (during which I had the honor of being the official flare lighter this year with Dad’s flamethrower)…

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followed in the morning by the 35th Annual Elmwood Beach 4rh of July Parade during which a blast from the past hit the street after a good 20 year hiatus.

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Even Wonder Woman came out of retirement for the festivities…

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and I did manage to get a pic of the elusive Flash Gordon, albeit fuzzy, but boy, that guy is lightning fast.

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Of course, after the parade, there was time for a little swimming…

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and a little boating…

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and a little tubing…

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and then it was time for a little nap.

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Where Has the Time Gone? December 16, 2008

Posted by dianehuhn in Big Fun on the Bayou, Family, Relief Work, Travels.
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It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a full month since my last post. And a busy month it’s been. I’ll spare both of us the details and just give the highlights.

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My neice Shannon is now officially an old married lady (well, maybe not old, but hitched nonetheless). A big congrats to Joey and Shannon! It was a beautiful wedding in chilly Naperville, IL.

It was a quick trip the windy city as I wanted to get back for the Thanksgiving Roofing Blitz on the 5 Bayous. 5 days, 14 roofs. Was it crazy? Yes. Was it chaotic? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely! We had nearly 100 volunteers and it’s wonderful to say that 14 families will be warm, dry and safe from the elements this winter season, and hopefully for many years to come. A huge thank you to all of our sponsors, partners, and volunteers!

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Enjoyed a wonderful “Cajun” Thanksgiving with the Pellegrin family and then it was back to work with an awesome group of volunteers from Marist High School (Chicago, IL).

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Went on an outrageous fishing trip with Mike. Unfortunately I forgot to bring my camera so no one will probably believe me, but it was like catching fish in a barrel. There were so many fish, the surface of the water was literally boiling. I caught the biggest fish I’ve ever caught in my whole life! Amazing! Can’t wait to go again, and rest assured, I won’t forget my camera next time.

I also got to take in my first Saints game at the Superdome and well, let’s just say my new mantra is “who dat?”.

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Then it was off to Michigan for Family Chaos ’08 and would you believe I got caught in a snow storm in New Orleans? It was crazy! And incredibly dangerous since Louisianians have NO idea how to drive in snow and snow removal is simply non-existent since it snows like every 6-10 years or something. I did enjoy this Cajun Snowman someone made on the side of Highway 55 during bumper to bumper traffic.

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Family Christmas was Saturday and it was wonderful to see everyone, but it wasn’t too much of a secret who brought the white elephant gifts below.

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So now I’m enjoying a little R&R at Gun Lake in the Great Lakes state of Michigan. And since it’s about 15 degrees and snowing, I’m not feeling all that guilty about still being in my PJs curled up on the couch catching up on my favorite TV programs even though it’s almost 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Don’t get me wrong cause I do enjoy motor home living for the most part, but cable and video on demand rock!

For all the latest pics from my recent adventures, click here.

And for Bethany, here’s a self-portrait of me sporting the latest addition of camo to my wardrobe. Go Saints!

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Welcome Ja”cub”! October 13, 2008

Posted by dianehuhn in Big Fun on the Bayou, Family, Relief Work.
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A big welcome to my newest grand nephew, Jacob Michael, weighing in at 8 lbs. 13 oz., born October 5th. Can’t wait to meet the little guy in person when I head to Chicago for his Aunt Shannon’s wedding in November.

Well another week of tarping, gutting, general chaos and confusion has passed. We have two new teams of AmeriCorp volunteers, Wolf 2 and Western New York, here with us on the bayou for a few weeks. They hit the ground running and have been doing a great job.

Two of our volunteers, George and Bruce, who have been most helpful left Friday. Every time I spill something, I will remember George. And every time something goes wrong with my motorhome, I will remember Bruce.

We took the weekend off and on Saturday enjoyed some good food, great music, and learned a lot about the importance of saving the wetlands at the Voice of the Wetlands festival in Houma. This morning, after a quick run (which actually is about a 2 1/2 hour round trip) to Home Depot for an additional 216 slats, I headed off for an afternoon of R&R in New Orleans.

Alright my friends, sorry for the short post, but it’s time to hit the sack so I’m ready for a new day of fun-filled adventure on the bayou. For some pictures of the Wetlands festival, click here. For pictures from Week 3, click here, and for Week 4, click here.

Of Sound Mind and Body August 7, 2008

Posted by dianehuhn in Family, Ramblings.
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Periodically, my Mother will attempt to begin a conversation with me that starts off with “You know, you might want to think about …”. What follows is almost invariably something that I most certainly do NOT want to think about. In fact, 9 times out of 10, it’s something that I live my life in such a manner as to avoid even the possibility of thinking about. I find that it would be much more accurate if she would phrase these things as “I know you don’t want to think about it, but you probably should consider …”. At that point, I could simply say “Yep, you’re right. I don’t want to think about it. How about this weather we’re having?”

Unfortunately, I usually don’t get off the hook that easily, but I have found that the quickest way to bring these conversations to a close is to agree with her. “Yes, Mom, you’re absolutely right. Yes, that is something important to think about. OK, I agree, I’ll get right on that.” Then I immediately put the conversation out of my mind and go blissfully on with my life.

So I wasn’t necessarily surprised when she recently said, “You know, you might want to think about having a Will drawn up.” At which point, I began my subversive tactics. “Yes, Mom, you’re absolutely right. Yes, you just never know when you might get hit by a bus, or eaten by an alligator while kayaking. OK, I agree, I’ll get right on that. Thank you for your advice. Do you think it will rain later?” And as quickly as possible, put the conversation out of my mind.

Then it happened. I approached the mailbox without a care in the world. Found a letter addressed to me from a law office. Mild anxiety set in, but then I thought, hey, maybe some long lost relative died and left me a small fortune. It could happen. So I opened the letter, but was disappointed to learn that I was not a soon-to-be millionaire. Instead it read, “Dear Diane, Please fill out the enclosed paper work in advance of our appointment to discuss your demise. Sincerely, Your Mom’s Lawyer”.

OK, so I admit that I do feel better knowing that my parting wishes have been documented, but I am completely rethinking my “You know, you might want to think about …” game plan for the future.