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Source of Family Happiness 

Home entertainment systems, whether they are lavish or simple, are becoming the heartbeat of a family's house, and incorporating audio, visual and computer systems can make life run more smoothly.

That is the specialty at Audio Resource (3133 Edenborn Ave., Metairie, 885-6988; www.audioresource.com), which sells high-performance home theaters, music and automated systems for homes -- in all price ranges.

"We sell things to make life easier and high tech," says Jay Valentino, president of Audio Resource. "They are toys, but they also are tools."

The business sells individual components, furniture and entire systems; the in-house staff of designers and installers take jobs as simple as running wires for speakers or selling a plasma TV off the sales floor to pre-wiring new structures or installing home theaters with oversized screens and reclining chairs, to automation systems for remote controls, lighting controls and integrated computer networks.

Home theater systems, some with curtained screens and sound systems that rival commercial theaters, have become hugely popular. "I think that the movie-going experience has changed so much in the last 10-to-15 years," Valentino says. "It used to be a night out at the movies was a grand experience. Now the movie theater has 30 screens, kind of stadium seating, they keep increasing the prices while the quality of the experience goes down. [Home theater] is a family experience. It brings up a lot of other entertainment possibilities: high-definition football games, kids being able to play video games on a 10-foot-wide screen. The systems also can become the repository for all the family's media and hobbies. Everybody can share all the media, from the 15-year-old's rap collection to dad's rhythm and blues collection."

Valentino says his shop caters to customers in all price levels who are looking for the highest quality of components. "We do all the research and all the testing here before we recommend a single product," he says. "We are fortunate enough to have probably the industry's best of the best in every price category" including well-known names such as Sony and Pioneer and more obscure industry leaders such as B&W, Krell and others.

Systems range from $2,000 to $200,000, and customers can test all the options before buying by visiting the Audio Resource showroom, which is divided into six separate spaces in which sound and video systems have been set up among normal home furnishings. At their leisure, customers can recline in the chairs and listen to music or watch video to see which system would best fit their lifestyle.


Gifts of Inspiration

Simple things such as seeing beautiful art or reading something so inspirational that it moves your heart are subtle ways to reinforce religious feelings in day to day life. Father Adam Begnaud, who manages Abbey Gift Shop (75376 River Road, Covington, 985-867-2227) on the grounds of St. Joseph Abbey, stocks the store with a range of items to help elicit such experiences.

"It's not your grandmother's Catholic gift shop," says Begnaud. "It is a Catholic gift shop and bookstore, but I try to expand the concept ... to get people to incorporate spirituality into their everyday living, and to get people to read more about their spiritual being."

Wind chimes, stained glass, traditional oil paintings from Peru, bronze statues, incense, scented oils and candles, rosaries and crucifixes are among the offerings.

"Winds chimes and stained glass are not religious necessarily," he says, "but when wind blows through wind chimes, it incarnates something of the spirit; it's like the breath of God. And when the light shines through beautiful glass, it brings God's spirit to us."

Some of the Russian and Celtic icons in the shop are religious but also stand on their own as beautiful works of art, and "beauty deepens our spirituality," Begnaud says.

The shop caters to tourists who come to see the impressive murals by Gregory DeWitt, who studied at St. Joseph, that hang in the seminary -- the shop sells note cards and bookmarks of the murals -- as well as visitors who come to worship. It also attracts people who come to St. Joseph Abbey, the burial place of novelist Walker Percy, just to shop at the gift shop. Begnaud currently is working on a book about the murals that will be sold in the shop.

Abbey Gift Shop is open from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday (it closes each day for Eucharist) and from noon to 2 p.m. on Sunday.


Carving a Healthy Future

Some of the city's top doctors will use their surgical skills to carve pumpkins that will be sold to benefit Children's Hospital during Operation Pumpkin from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 23 at The Shops at Canal Place (333 Canal St.). The carved pumpkins will be sold for $25 each, or children can pick their own mini pumpkins from the Canal Place patch for $15 and carve them with the help of artists from RHINO gallery. The event is free and open to the public. All proceeds benefit Children's Hospital. Call 522-9200 for more information.

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