The Top Threes of Shreveport, Louisiana

If you ever find yourself with some extra time in Shreveport, Louisiana, here are some of the top experiences there you wont want to miss out on.

1. R. W. Norton Art Gallery

Named after Richard W. Norton, a discoverer of the Rodessa Oil Field in northern Louisiana, the art gallery began as a fine art collection by his wife and son. In 1946, Mr. Norton’s mother and son created the R.W. Norton Art Foundation, which later became the R.W. Norton Art Gallery.

Surrounding the art gallery is 40 acres of beautiful botanical gardens, described as “one of the South’s favorite spots” by Southern Living Magazine. Indoors, the gallery has an extensive fine art collection including over 400 paintings from over 100 artists. The collection spans at least four millennia. The gallery also takes part in an oral history project. Created in 2003, the project has grown to include stories of World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, Louisiana Musical Pioneers, and more.

2. Louisiana Exhibit Museum

The Louisiana Exhibit Museum was one of the Public Works projects during the New Deal and was completed in 1939. The building holds 23 scale dioramas showing life in 1940s Louisiana. There are regional art collections, Native American Artifacts, and natural history exhibits.

3. Beef Jerky Outlet

Recently ranked by Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500®, Beef Jerky Outlet is a top beef jerky retailer. Being in Louisiana, this is a prime place to go for some alligator jerky. With other jerkies ranging from the traditional beef to kangaroo and even ostrich, Beef Jerky Outlet is a place to visit for an eccentric and out of the ordinary experience.

3 Places to Stay

1. Fairfield Place Bed & Breakfast Inn

Built by a Louisiana Supreme Court Judge, Thomas Thompson, and his wife Mary Eliza, this bed and breakfast was built in the early 1870s and is possibly one of the oldest houses on its street. With beautiful New Orleans style patios and an old-timey feel, Fairfield Place is almost a blast from the past featuring modern amenities such as WiFi, Cable TV, private bedrooms, and more.  Begin each morning with a feeling of Louisiana and a full breakfast.

2. Clarion Inn

With over 200 rooms and suites, the Clarion Inn is the perfect place to stay. With a free continental breakfast, marketplace, fitness center, high-speed internet, and more, it’s the place to stay for a nice and classic getaway. The Clarion is also pet friendly for those traveling with their four-legged friends. It is a perfect stay for group travel and even includes business spaces.

3. Remington Suite Hotel and Spa

The Remington Suite Hotel and Spa may be small, but it’s mighty. It has 22 rooms and one penthouse. The beds and mattresses are custom made. Rooms come equipped with a kitchenette, a jacuzzi, flat screen televisions, iPod docking stations, and more. Hotel amenities include complimentary WiFi, a full service spa, a media room, and an indoor pool.

3 Places to Eat

1. Food Shack

A self-described Southern Experience, Food Shack serves Southern Style food. A locally owned and operated business, Food Shack serves Louisiana classics gumbo, po-boys, and jambalaya.

2. Frank’s Louisiana Kitchen (Cajun/Creole Food)

Frank’s Louisiana Kitchen is on a mission to bring southern Louisiana style cooking to the northern part of the state. Everything here is made from scratch and served in a more upscaled and relaxed, casual setting. There are chef’s specials Thursday through Saturday with live jazz on Sundays. He has recently partnered with Artemis Gourmet Mushrooms to offer gourmet Louisiana-grown and harvested mushrooms in his dishes.

3. Cold Stone Creamery (Sweets)

In case of a sweet tooth, Cold Stone Creamery is the ultimate destination. They offer what they call a “10-Minute Vacation®.. that 10-minute getaway you deserve from the world outside our doors.” They’ve been in business for 25 years and show no signs of slowing down. Each dessert is prepared individually for each customer, providing a truly encompassing experience.

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Shreveport_Benny_Cenac

Louisiana’s Jump Start 2.0 Program

The Department of Education just released a blueprint for public feedback on the Jump Start 2.0 program. Louisiana is taking a step forward to reduce the negative connotations surrounding career and technical education and making sure those with a Career Diploma are ready to enter high-wage career sectors. In a blueprint titled Jump Start 2.0, the state is attempting to further its nationally recognized program Jump Start created in 2014.

The Jump Start program “prepares students to lead productive adult lives, capable of continuing their education after high school.” Students leave the program with a Career Diploma- signifying the students obtained industry mandated and valued credentials. With this program, students are able to leave high school with the ability to secure a high-wage or high-demand career. Jump Start is also an elective path which can be taken by students wanting to further their education.

Before the initiation of Jump Start, less than two percent of Louisiana’s students graduated with a Career Diploma. In 2018, over 90,000 students graduated high school with a Career Diploma- a drastic increase from 2014’s 17,885 students.

With the initiation of Jump Start 2.0, the program will grow even further. The blueprint signifies that:

  1. Every student that graduates with a Career Diploma will show they can succeed in the workplace- fully prepared to work in a high-wage, high-growth industry. The program will increase its workplace learning, prioritize the most valuable opportunities, and better align its 51 possible pathways to career clusters.
  2. Every state resident will know the Jump Start career path as well as the TOPS program. The program will do this by celebrating successful Jump Start graduates, launching an interactive website for students and families, and investing in further professional development for its career and technical education leaders.
  3. Community leaders will create various systems to conjoin education and employment throughout Louisiana without the state interfering. Jump Start will do this by creating new governance structures and supporting ideals that take the experience past high school graduation.

The Louisiana Department of Education released the new blueprint initiative after the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) instructed the Department to assess how the Jump Start program offerings aligned with the workforce needs of the state. The Department of Education released a report which stated that while students were gaining more credentials, but not receiving the experience necessary for the high-wage, high-demand jobs available in the region. Of the top 15 industry-based credentials earned, only three were truly aligned with regional needs.

As a way to improve, the Department of Education paired with not only education leaders, but also business leaders across the state to create a more comprehensive blueprint for Jump Start 2.0. The Department then turned to state residents interested in career and technical education in Louisiana. The public feedback form closed March 15.

The Department of Education will now evaluate the feedback to improve the blueprint and share it at the April 2019 BESE meeting. All changes to the program will be carried out keeping in mind the needs and commitments of participating schools, students, and school systems. Some of the changes may be enforced as soon as the 2019-2020 school year.

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New Red-Fish Recipe to Try This Lent

Need a new Fish Recipe? It is time to try Allrecipes  version of Cajun Blackened Redfish. Red-fish, also referred to as channel bass or red drum, is always a great protein alternative. It is only 218 calories for one fillet. It is also a great source for potassium, 25% to be exact. Eating fish has many health benefits. Two of the top ones being, it is better for your heart and it can help eyesight.

Make sure when you buy your fish you try to stick to smaller sizes; larger fish can have a tougher texture and different flavor. The whole process of cooking the fish is to make sure it is so moist and tender, it will almost be falling apart.

For this recipe you will need a large skillet, a baking dish, and a couple of mixing bowls.

INGREDIENTS

Fish Recipe

Butter (or olive oil)

Lemon pepper

Cayenne pepper

Garlic powder

Salt

About 1 & ¼ cup of italian-style salad dressing

4 fillets of redfish

DIRECTIONS

Your first step should always be to preheat the oven; set it to 350°F. Your second step is to mix the lemon pepper, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in one of your mixing bowls. Make sure you have everything ready before touching the fish. You do not want any unsanitary cooking areas. Helpful hint: if you do not enjoy a lot of spice leave the cayenne pepper out, you can always add it later.

Melt your butter in a second mixing bowl in either the microwave; or an easier option would be to melt the butter, on low, in the large skillet. Coat the redfish with the butter on both sides. Then take the seasoning that is in your mixing bowl, using the butter as a glue, sprinkle it over the redfish. Place fish aside while you heat up the skillet

Grab the large skillet and turn the burner all the way to high heat. Coat your skillet with your leftover butter. The idea is not to fully cook the fish in the skillet but to sear it. Even slightly charred on each side. Make sure the skillet is nice and hot, then carefully place the redfish fillets in the skillet. Once the fish has a nice dark color, take it out of the skillet. This should not take long. Remember you are not cooking the fillets in the skillet, just searing them.  

Your final step is to take the fish and place it into the baking dish. Take the Italian dressing and drizzle it over the fillets. The dressing is to add flavor, but it also helps keep the fish from drying out. Make sure the pan is covered, remember dry fish is not good fish. Cook the fillets in the oven for 30 minutes, checking on them because every oven is different. Make sure to check the fish because all ovens are different, and it might be ready sooner!

The best part about this recipe is that it can be paired with any side.

Sides that go well with Redfish recipes:

Steamed Vegetables

Steamed or Baked Potatoes

Quinoa

Brown Rice

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Discover Louisiana’s Spring Festivals

Spring Festivals are some of the most highlighted times of the year in Louisiana.  There are hundreds of festivals across the state of all types. Some honor the local produce like the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival or the Franklin Parish Catfish festival.  Some are odes to certain music genres like the Baton Rouge Blues Festival.  Others are nods to history and culture like Lafayette’s Festival International.  All of them are tons of fun for everyone and offer lots to do, great food to eat, and exciting activities.  Here are some of our favorites based on the festival guide published by Louisianatravel.com.

1.    French Quarter Festival

Spring Festivals

While most people know about the Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, it seems that this festival is smaller, less well-known, and the locals like it that way.  They are able to see some of their favorite acts without all the hullabaloo. As stated on their website, their mission is to “promote the Vieux Carré and the City of New Orleans through high quality special events and activities that showcase the culture and heritage of this unique city, contribute to the economic well-being of the community, and instill increased pride in the people of New Orleans.”  2019 brings the 36th Anniversary of the festival and locals will tell you that it gets better with time.

2.    Louisiana Pirate Festival

The Louisiana Pirate Festival is a wonderful chance to experience Southwest Louisiana’s joie de vivre or “Joy of Life.”  Celebrating the legendary life of pirate Jean Lafitte, it is held on the grounds of the Lake Charles Civic Center and Seawall.  There will be great live entertainment showcasing Louisiana musicians and great Louisiana cuisine, a Pirate Ball and parade, Fireworks Display and much more. The story goes that pirate Jean Lafitte docked his boat right on the shore and buried his treasure somewhere along the bank. Witness the cannon fire as the citizens of Lake Charles defend the seawall against the pirates!

3.    Festival International de Louisiane

Lafayette hosts this festival all over its downtown area every April.  It’s one of the few free festivals of its size. It brings in over 300k people and acts from all over the world including many bands that don’t speak English and who carry hand-made instruments.  Festival International is known for exciting discoveries and culture sharing. There are plenty of food trucks offering local fare from all over Louisiana, arts and crafts, shopping, and activities.  The official lineup has been released and the festival also offers a free app to help you organize your favorite shows and create a schedule for yourself.  

4.    Natchitoches Jazz/R&B Festival

May brings this fun festival to one of the oldest settled towns in Louisiana.  It has hosted legendary artists such as .38 Special, Trombone Shorty, Edgar Winter, The Marshall Tucker Band, The Family Stone, Grand Funk Railroad and many, many more. The main stage is located on the banks of the Cane River in the historic downtown area. There will be music for all tastes; not just Jazz and R&B but also country, rock, zydeco, and much more. With food trucks and booths lining the riverbank, the gorgeous setting and festive music makes for an incredibly unique experience for all ages.

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Top Hotels Around the World in 2019

Is there any more important choice than lodging or Hotels when planning your vacation?  Don’t be the traveler that logs hours of internet research and thousands of dollars only to be miserable in a resort that you thought would be luxury.  Depending on your priorities, there’s the perfect lodging choice no matter where you choose to travel, but these Hotels are so lovely that you may want to choose your travel destination around the Hotel.  Travelandleisure.com recently published their list of top hotels to visit in 2019 and we couldn’t be more on board!  From huge, sprawling, popular resorts to under the radar cottages, their list was compiled by seasoned professional travelers, travel writers and hospitality specialists who are all in the know, and now you can be in the know before planning your next big adventure!

1.    Mombo Camp — Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana

Top Hotels Around the World in 2019

Botswana is the premier safari/wildlife conservation area in the world.  Rated a 90/100 on the conservation scale, they are largely dedicated to conserving the land and wildlife in the area and make sure that any safaris or tours are not impacting the integrity of either.  The camp is powered by solar power and employs teams of specialists, experts and scientists to ensure the safety of all parties: travellers, wild game, the earth, and the locals. Home to a large African elephant population along with zebras and Cape buffalo, the camp is a new lodge on one of the area’s most exclusive slices of land that measures over 96k acres.  See sights and have experiences straight out of the Disney movie Jungle Book at this pristine and unique hotel.

2.    Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches Island

A true castaways experience, Desroches Island is a coral island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  An authentic paradise, it offers only the best and luxurious accommodations and is the only resort on the island.  Rock slowly in an ocean-side hammock, relax in your private pool, take long naps in your rustic bungalow or cabana, or explore the 9 miles of white sand beaches and trails while feeling the ocean breeze blow on your face and listening to the soft waves crash on the shore.  When you are feeling adventurous you can visit our tortoise sanctuary where hundreds- years-old giant tortoises roam freely. When you want to renew, visit our spa or take a master yoga course. This is truly a vacation that you have on your terms.

3.    Amanyangyun — Shanghai

Boasting a one thousand-year year-old camphor forest transported from an actual village submerged by a reservoir project in Jingxia province by billionaire entrepreneur Ma Dadong, who brought them from his home province of Fuzhou, over 400 miles away, this hotel mixes the ancient and modern in curious ways.  Book one of the contemporary villas with elaborately carved interior beams and delicate tiles that are set next to open-air walkways and ponds. Shanghai itself is a metropolis drawing more and more attention from travelers from all over the world. There you will find the perfect blend of cultures and the modern mixed with the traditional.

4.    Capella Ubud — Bali, Indonesia

Designed by Bill Bensley, who is responsible for some of Southeast Asia’s most glamorous resorts, Capella Ubud takes an unexpected turn toward the natural to reflect Bensley’s love of camping. The result is 23 of the most lavish and fantastical tents ever created, something straight out of an adventure movie.  It includes copper tubs, saltwater pools, and suspension bridges. Each tent has a theme such as the Librarian’s Tent or the Cartographer’s Tent, and is outfitted with antiques from the owner’s collection. Bensley worked hard at preserving the integrity of the natural landscape and didn’t cut down a single tree on the resort’s 10 acres of rainforest and rice terraces.

5.    Skylark Negril Beach Resort — Jamaica

This hip resort is straight out of a design and style magazine. It draws inspiration from the naturally vibrant color palette of Jamaica and incorporates architectural elements such as whitewashed concrete, geometric shapes, and natural wood grains to create the minimalist style with added vivid splashes of color.

The property’s design reflects its natural surroundings- aqua marine guest room doors to symbolize the Caribbean Sea, shades of greens to symbolize the lush native vegetation, and  accent pieces to symbolize the signature ackee fruit’s bright red color. This resort will allow you access to the island’s authentic culture by way of food, music, architecture and design.

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Six Louisiana Schools Nominated for Blue Ribbon Award

Louisiana Believes website recently announced that several schools were in the running for The National Blue Ribbon Award.  The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program is a federal program whose mission is to “promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access” as stated on their website.  The award recognizes schools based on their overall academic excellence and progress with closing achievement gaps. Every year the U.S. Department of Education celebrates great American schools that have been successful in showing that all students can achieve at high levels. More than 8,500 schools across the country have been presented with this highly coveted and prestigious award. The award affirms the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students succeed.

Schools may be nominated for the award only once within a five-year period and are nominated by their Chief State School Officer.   The U.S. Department of Education determines the number of nominations per state based on the number of students and schools in each state.  One-third of the public schools nominated by each state must include student populations with at least 40% of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

This year, six Louisiana schools have been nominated to be recipients of the award which will be announced in September of 2019.  Four of the nominated schools are recognized as “Exemplary High Performing Schools” and two of the nominated schools are recognized as “Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools.”  They are among the state’s highest-performing schools as measured by state assessments.

The schools include:

Blue Ribbon Award

Haynes Academy School for Advanced Studies, Jefferson Parish

Early College Academy, Lafayette Parish

Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy, Jefferson Parish

Thomas Jefferson High School for Advanced Studies, Jefferson Parish

Bayou Black Elementary School, Terrebonne Parish

St. Charles Elementary School, Lafourche Parish

School administrators were over the moon upon hearing of the recent nominations.  Karla H. Russo, Principal of Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies in Jefferson Parish: “We are honored to be nominated as a potential National Blue Ribbon School. Our faculty, staff, students, parents, and community work together to create an environment that fosters student achievement and success, and I am proud to see their dedication and commitment to learning recognized.”  Alexander Melton, Principal of Early College Academy in Lafayette Parish: “Early College Academy is honored and excited to be the recipient of a Blue Ribbon School nomination. To be mentioned in the same category as the other fine Louisiana schools who have been nominated is humbling for us. All of our stakeholders, especially our students, faculty, and staff, work hard to achieve the best results possible. We are both proud and excited to be recognized for that hard work.”

John White himself commented on the nominations and overall success of many Louisiana schools in a released statement: “These six schools stand out for their ability to either steadily improve student achievement over subsequent years or consistently remain one of the top performing schools in the state.  This is a commendable achievement worthy of this distinguished honor.”

The winning school will serve as a model of effective school practices for state and district educators as well as throughout the nation.  Staff at winning schools are often sought out as mentors to discuss key elements of their success, from individualized student supports, research-based instruction, collaboration, and targeted curricula. Representatives from schools will be invited to Washington DC to be honored at an annual awards ceremony. The school itself will receive an engraved plaque and flag with the official seal signifying its winning status and the year of the award.

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