Rolling Hills and Red Barns…..

Aside from the delightful evening I spent with the members of the Darting Needles Quilting Guild and seeing my old friend for the first time in more than ten years, my trip to Wisconsin gave me the chance to visit a part of the country I had not previously been to. There were indeed lots of rolling hills, very green grass and trees, lovely wild flowers and plenty of barns and silos. Cows, of course and I passed multiple billboards showing various cheese stores. They must also have a huge deer population because there was a surprising number of dead deer along the roadways. I did go zipping past Wisconsin Dells, “The Water Park Capital of the World,” but didn’t have time to stop. It certainly looked like it would be a fun place.

The little town where my friend lives is very much a “Small Town, U.S.A” with only a couple of streets for the downtown, a park at the end, and the post office, City Hall, and senior center all clustered close together. The hospital is fairly new and in addition to robust medical services for a place the size it is, there was a very large fitness center. We did not go inside, but it looked to be well equipped and there was an indoor swimming pool. All of this makes good sense in a place with difficult winters.

A regional fast-food chain was Culvers, but it is a family-based business that emphasizes fresh ingredients and their specialty is frozen custard. It is apparently made fresh on the premises. They do have a small freezer stocked with to-go containers. It’s one of the kind of places where you order at the counter and they bring your food to the table. The staff was quite friendly and I could see why it was a favorite.

Day 3 into Day 4…..

Poignant thoughts alert. Although my time with the quilting guild was absolutely delightful, there was no way they could cover my expenses for this is trip. I came because it was truly fortuitous. Of all the places I could have been invited to speak, what are the odds there would be a group within a five-hour drive of my friend whom  I had not seen since 2003? If one chooses to not believe in such things, that’s fine.

My drive over yesterday was pretty much without incidence, other than the fact they failed to replace a directional sign I needed after doing some roadwork last year. As I was going along and felt perhaps I had missed a turn somewhere, I stopped for a bathroom/beverage break and being female had no problem asking if I had in fact missed a turn. The young lady immediately said, “Oh yes, everyone does that,” and explained the problem. I was only about ten miles off’ so that wasn’t too bad. I arrived within fifteen minutes of my original plan which from my perspective put me on target.

My friend and I passed a pleasant afternoon catching up and reminiscing. We had dinner that night with her daughter who is only a year younger than me and lost her husband unexpectedly Thanksgiving morning. The irony here is I met my friend years ago after she lost her husbandly unexpectedly at the too-young age of forty-five. However, since I lost my first husband unexpectedly at twenty-seven, I was able to help her sort through the intense emotions. And so, last night we were both able to sit there and offer support to her grieving daughter. Such is the power of female friendship.

Day 2 into Day 3 of Trip….

What a charming town Appleton is and what a vibrant quilting community. The presentation tonight was in the First Methodist Church and the lady who’s been coordinating the visit invited me to early dinner at one of the local favorites. Pullman’s is on the river and you go past the old Woolen Mills that have been converted to commercial and residential space. I always love to see that.

I had a number of things I had to deal with while I still have internet connectivity, but went out to scout the area (old Army training) in between. The downtown seems to be thriving (Lawrence College is here) with a couple of museums, a performing arts center, several restaurants, pubs and a beer factory I regrettably won’t have time to try.

Dinner turned out to be with several of the ladies from the quilting guild. Pullmans was a large place with an excellent menu and great ambience. They did do an order of fried cheese curds for the table which were delicious as was the walleye I had. The salads looked lovely, too.

There were I guess around 70 people at the meeting and they had me present, then do their break, then go on into the business meeting and show and tell. If I hadn’t been up since really early, I probably would have stayed because they had some very nice quilts and quilt items to talk about.

As soon as I post this, I’ll pack up and head to Baldwin to visit with my friend until tomorrow afternoon. It’s a bit of a drive, but the point is I will also see more of the state and that is one of my objectives.

 

 

Day 1 of Trip…..

Well, I have had better travel days and much worse. It is in fact the rainy season in South Florida. Therefore, we shouldn’t be overly surprised to have rain. The system did sweep in from the Gulf, but that’s not unusual either. So, when my first flight was already delayed and I noticed about ten minutes before we were to start boarding that we didn’t have a plane yet, I concluded we would be even later. My comfortable margin for changing planes rapidly diminished. Despite the almost 1.5 hours late in departing for the first time that I can recall, I arrived at and departed from the same terminal in Atlanta. Not that the gates were close together, but I was on board on time. The first flight was so turbulent, they couldn’t do cabin service although they did manage to get us a room temperature glass of water not quite 30 minutes before landing. There were lots of apologies even though there really wasn’t anything they could do to affect the situation. Oh, they also offered cookies or pretzels as we left the plane.

Anyway, my suitcase did also make the next flight. In landing during afternoon rush hour in a place I have never been before, it was nice to have sunny weather as I navigated through lots of construction. In all fairness, it’s not as if you can do construction year-round in Wisconsin. I did have good directions and I did By Gosh pass through Oshkosh on my way to Appleton. By coincidence, I also had dinner at Applebees which was next to the motel. Seemed appropriate. I am truly tired and will go explore a bit tomorrow.

A New DC Dining Experience……

In general if the wait to get a table at a restaurant is an hour, we don’t bother. However, it was a Friday night in DC and we were intrigued by the menu and look of Farmers and Distillers, a place we were not familiar with. (http://farmersanddistillers.com/about) We put our name on the list and decided to go to the bar. It was pretty crowded, too, and perhaps in an omen, a couple left as we walked up. More kindly, a trio gave up one seat so we could be together. I will begin with the bar which was quite large and designed as two-sided. Three bartenders serving the front where the stools were and two taking service orders for the back, plus a dishwasher, all of whom were quite busy, gives you an idea of the size of the place. The front bartenders also had flair with competition-level movements, friendly smiles, and not rushing us as we took in the wide variety.  You can read the entire background at their website, but the concept adds a twist to the “farm to table” and sustainable sourcing trends. The distilling aspect includes whiskey, vodka, gin, pisco (South American sugarcane-based liquor similar to rum) and of course craft beers. Even the ice was unusual. I know that sounds odd, yet true. Rather than standard cubes, there were ice chunks and therefore did not melt as quickly as most cubes do.

Okay, onto the food where the choices were almost as difficult. Since we’d done burgers for lunch, we were leaning toward seafood although the description of the lamb and pork chops was tempting. The oven roasted shrimp with crab called to me and as soon as Hubby saw cioppino, that settled it. We shared a lovely salad and the round loaf of fresh bread was excellent. Price-wise, it was not out of line with DC restaurants, although being a moderate-priced restaurant is a relative term.

Anyone who is familiar with service in our area is aware that good service is the exception rather than the rule. It varies from erratic to terrible and that includes a number of high-end places. It is a topic of discussion among most diners and newcomers are often startled. Many of us think it might be due to the large number of tourists who tend to not be regulars, but that really is the subject for a future post. Service at Farmers and Distillers was as good as everything else. The manager stopped by our table and we passed on all our compliments. If you find a Farmers and Distillers anywhere you are traveling, we highly recommend it.

Whirlwind Trip….

The annual trip to D.C. to see son’s performance with Bowen McCauley Dance (http://www.bmdc.org) was shorter than usual,but it’s the way the timing worked out. We crammed everything in and even though Mother Nature could have been nicer, the rain did go away for after the show and wasn’t too awful prior to that. Hubby didn’t get to spend the day taking great photos. He did, however, make it to the Spy Museum and into the National Portrait Gallery and enjoyed them both.

I was able to catch up with old friends and the performance was terrific. Amelia was as good as one can possibly expect a two-year old to be during an hour-and-a-half event with an intermission. She has been going to performances since she was tiny and she understands to watch, listen, and use an “inside voice” or whisper for the little bit she wanted to say – mostly “Daddy dancing”.

It was at the Landsburgh Theater this year instead of the Terrace Theater so we learned a new section of D.C. Traffic was of course as bad as always. We found some new restaurants as well, one of which I’ll blog about tomorrow. We dined before the show at Carmines which is also where the Gala after was held. I have no idea how many people the place can actually sit, but it is huge and has multiple rooms. Meals are served family style and the servers help guide you through the menu depending on the size of your party. A couple could dine alone as long as they have the ability to take leftovers.

We had early lunch with the kids at the airport and since Amelia loves to walk around, I let Hubby and the kids have coffee while Amelia and I got a little exercise. She enjoys climbing steps and then the escalator caught her eye. That was a little trickier, yet manageable. Anytime someone was behind us, I checked to see if they needed to pass. Flights were pretty good both ways so no complaints there.

Tweaked Menu, Right on Target…..

Grand Opening of Pub 935 at Capri in Florida City

Pub 935 opened a couple of months ago to quite a stir as something innovative in Florida City/Homestead. I’ve posted here, on Facebook, and Tweeted about it. As happens, there was a fairly quick reshuffling of staff, then talk of a revised menu. I wasn’t overly concerned although I was interested to see what was going to happen. I got the answer yesterday afternoon and am happy to report it is just as good, if not perhaps better. Hubby won’t have a chance to go for a few days, but I will get him there before too long.

Shrimp and grits and the wonderful skirt steak are still choices as are some of our other favorites like the great flatbread. Lasagna and Italian Nachos have been added. Not that I am a Little Neck Clam person, but for those who are, that inclusion met with full approval. The clams are done with andouille (or maybe it was chorizo) sausage, fresh tomatoes and some lovely herbs. There is also an option for a whole or half muffuleta sandwich. As the two of us familiar with the popular New Orleans fare explained, half is quite large. I am no more a fan of those than clams, however, the individual who ordered it was quite happy, took our advice of the half and took half of that home.

We do have another chain restaurant opening nearby soon, a Texas Roadhouse Grill, and while I enjoy those and wish them well, the family-owned Pub 935 is a big plus to local dining. It is in what was formerly called the King Richard Room of Capri Restaurant at yes, 935 Krome Ave, Florida City. (Many people refer to it as in Homestead)

Size Really Doesn’t Always Matter…..

The town of Weeki Wachee, Florida is known for their mermaids and I will admit when we saw the booth for Mermaid Rum at the Miami Rum Festival on Saturday, I did not initially think of Weeki Wachee. After all, sailors have talked about mermaids in lots of places and rum is more associated with the islands of the Caribbean.

The delightful couple we spoke with, however, a) do make a pleasant rum, and b) have an interesting story. They are on 80 acres and are an artisan distillery. They make both rye whiskey and rum. Their website is https://www.wildbuckwhiskey.com/home and we chatted with them for several minutes. One of the reasons the rum festival is fun is you do have a combination of the really big guys – I mean, who doesn’t know Bacardi? – but you also have the chance to meet representatives from lesser known companies. In some cases, it’s merely a different distiller from a well-established rum area such as one in Barbados you perhaps weren’t familiar with.

In the case of Mermaid Rum, they are fairly new and Florida isn’t a household name when it comes to making rum. With that said, the idea of craft brewing appeals to us and we will definitely add them to our list. I hope we can manage a trip up their way as well to learn more. What we saw was impressive.

The Way The Calendar Fills Up…..

In those moments when calendars start filling up, you sometimes have to start juggling. This past week was a good example. Every year our friends who have a wonderful rum consulting business hold the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. We haven’t been able to attend the past two years and made arrangements early enough this year. Despite the fact it’s within easy driving distance, we of course get the overnight hotel package for rather obvious reasons. It is a terrific festival if one is into rum. Hubby is more so than I am, although I will say estate/sipping rums are a very different level than standard mixing rums. Anyway, the point is that for the first time ever, Homestead Center for the Arts is holding a Celebration Expo (http://celebrationexpo.org or http://bit.ly/2pB6nfa for more info). The original date of January had to be slipped to April, and when the 23rd was selected, I wasn’t really supposed to be very involved. Let’s just say that changed. Okay, for everything I agreed to do except Thursday night we had the Chamber of Commerce Awards event which I was also a part of. I have three standing board meetings the third week of each month and one of them in particular requires extra prep. Ordinarily I would do that a couple of days prior, but since last Saturday was also the Book and Art Fair and Hubby couldn’t be there to help, that had my focus. All of which translates into me having to use last Sunday for prep for Monday’s meeting and let us not forget another deadline I had.

In other words, this is a convergence when my usual busy schedule is even more so and at the moment, I am supposed to have a little let-up come Tuesday. In the meantime, we adjusted our plans today/tonight to make everything align properly. Two other looming events were pushed into June, and that does help with the two trips on the schedule. One is personal and one is business combined with personal. I’ll get into those later. Ah well, that’s just how it goes sometimes.

The Thing About Scuba…..

Like many adventure sports, scuba is not for everyone. From a physical perspective, there are few conditions that prevent one from diving. Since Hubby entered into working with “adaptive” scuba for those with situations such as paraplegic, amputees, etc., he has in fact gained an even greater understanding of the physiological aspect of scuba in addition to already understanding the physics. An example of something that had never occurred to either of us if is you have an individual who is paraplegic, there may be the associated inability of the individual to assess hydration. When you are on the water in the heat, hydrating is quite important. Therefore, in a situation such as this, you have to keep watch and perhaps remind the individual to consume water or other appropriate beverages. In actuality there are only a few physical barriers such as someone who has ear issues and therefore can’t manage the pressure involved with diving. Exercise-induced asthma is another one that in general is  risky to try to manage. Severe claustrophobia is another because the mask causes too much of an issue.

Aside from physical, however, there are individuals who have either had a bad experience or a high level of anxiety for whatever reason. Interestingly, when Hubby started teaching younger students (they lowered the minimum age from twelve to ten), he discovered there were times when he had to approach training from a slightly different angle. In some cases, the student was quite open about a particular fear and in others, it would come out in conversation. By more or less coincidence, Hubby adapted this technique to adults who seemed to be extra anxious about diving. Mostly, these individuals fall into the broad categories of a) doing this for the sake of a diving companion or b) was always intrigued, but couldn’t define actual anxiety. While there may be similarities, every individual is different and often quietly working through the anxiety enables the individual to identify the root cause. Although it isn’t always successful, he has had mostly success.

When people who have never been diving ask me, I suggest the one-day “Discover” course (it’s called different names) as the best approach. It does add an extra layer of cost if the individual goes on through full certification, but it also adds an extra layer of confidence because one of the most difficult aspects of learning to dive has already been accomplished. That, by the way, is taking the first breath underwater. Intellectually, our brains might cognitively understand it’s okay, but another part says, “Whoa, what do you think you’re doing?” It happened to me and it was the strangest sensation. It’s a very common reaction and instructors are fully prepared for it with a new student. And as much as I love to dive, I realize not everyone feels the same way. For some people, snorkeling is the answer as a means to enjoy beautiful reefs and fascinating marine life. For others, going to a nice aquarium is the answer.