Happy Bastille Day……

With everything that’s been going on, I wasn’t paying attention to the fact today is Bastille Day. We usually celebrate and under the circumstances, I just can’t pull together the really fancy meal. That would be beef tournedos with peppercorn sauce, potatoes dauphinois, haritcots vert, and tart tartin (or chocolate mousse made from scratch). Tonight’s menu will be the less intense modern version of coq au vin although I did get bacon to render, shallots, and I am using bone-in, skin-on chicken. What I am not doing is cutting up a whole chicken, finding lardons, and making a bouquet garni. I also confess to having bought chocolate mousse cups from Jello, but I did look in the dessert freezer section just in case there were some authentic ones there.

Anyway, this gets us close enough. In actuality, the way we started celebrating Bastille Day was many years ago the first summer we were together. The wonderful Baltimore Aquarium did a Bastille Day sunset harbor cruise and we were able to enjoy that two years in a row. Although we’ve missed a few years because of schedules, we’ve been able to celebrate properly most of the time. I don’t actually think there’s any French ancestry on Hubby’s side of the family and I don’t recall where it is on mine. I’ll have to check that out again one of these days. I know there was someone on my paternal side and it might be maternal as well.

Interesting Entrepreneurship……

Somewhat “dark humor” alert. It isn’t really, but some might take it in that vein. I’ve been involved in a couple of different programs that focus on entrepreneurs and the various pitfalls of trying to start a new business. For every idea that catches on, there are many that either don’t get off the ground or splutter soon after launch. The TV show Shark Tank and however many variations there are of it have certainly shed light on the process. One path to success is of course to see a need for something that others do not necessarily see and take action. I’m on my way back to Florida and I saw a great example of such a niche yesterday. My stepmother passed away last Wednesday and the funeral was Saturday. In yesterday’s mail (Monday), my dad received a letter from a company whose name I paid no attention to since I wasn’t the one who opened the envelop. Inside was a complimentary laminated copy of my stepmother’s obituary with instructions about how to order additional copies. One of my stepsisters immediately said, “Oh yes, we got that after Daddy died (and that’s been quite some time ago), and we ordered some.”

It makes perfect sense. Newspaper paper does not hold up well over the years as anyone who has handled fragile articles knows. A laminated copy will endure for a very long time. I have no idea who first came up with this approach, but think for a moment about the fact that the letter was quite possibly mailed on the Friday and certainly not later than the Saturday before Monday arrival. That means the obituary was noted, the product created and mailed within around 24-36 hours in all probability. It does provide a practical service and while I have no intention of doing any research to discover how well the company performs, it is about as entrepreneurial as one can be.

The Day Does Come…..

Serious content alert. Yesterday was a long day as I flew to Louisiana after getting word a few days ago of my stepmother’s passing. The event was not unexpected, although there was thought it could be a bit in the future. The point to this post is something I’ve written about before. Once an individual goes into genuine decline, you don’t know what the timing will be.  Without being alarmist, that’s when we should figure out how to make a visit or strengthen contact as a “just in case”. One of the aspects of hospice is to provide that framework since entering into hospice essentially makes the announcement of, “I don’t know when, but I am accepting the approaching stage.” Although I say, “our culture tends to make discussing approaching death an uncomfortable subject”, I’m not certain other cultures do a better job of it.

The concept of “Celebration of Life” does make sense and most people embrace that now, for that is what we hope family and friends can remember of an individual who is departed. I don’t know which culture is responsible for the old questions  of, “Did you find joy in life and did you give joy?” as a measure, but it is a good one to keep in mind.

Painting Parties…

I don’t know who came up with the idea of “Painting Parties” or even where it really got started, but it does appear to be a trend. It’s especially nice to see that the two great ladies of Art for Good seem to be doing well with them. Let me explain a bit if you’re not familiar with either. I’ve posted about Art for Good (https://www.artforgoodusa.org) previously and yes, they are an Affiliate Member of Homestead Center for the Arts. Suzanne Moe and Marcela Noriega are truly awesome women and to quote from their website, “Here at Art For Good we believe art can help integrate community, build self-esteem and promote mutual respect. We recognize art and creative thinking as valuable tools to find solutions to social problems in our community and to benefit society.

We invite and inspire people to be agents of positive change by staging fun art events and activities which bring community together for the common good. These events help raise awareness and funds for Art For Good projects and programs.”

Of course they accept straight out donations, but their Paint Parties are growing in popularity and they fall into the category of being what I call a, “Fundraiser with the emphasis on Fun“. The concept is remarkably simple and the party is usually held in a place where wine (or your preferred beverage) can flow along with the paint and laughter. You start with a blank canvas and an image to work toward. You don’t need to have ever held a paintbrush to be part of the fun and you might surprise yourself as Suzanne and Marcela give you pointers. They hold private and public events and three public ones are scheduled for 6, 19, and 21 July. The price is around $30 per person, but that varies depending on what food and drink are included. Pop onto their website for details.

If you’re looking for something interesting for the summer, I highly recommend checking  this option out.

It Should Be Fun….

I have of course posted about how thrilled we are to have the Seminole Theater open again and some of the events we’ve attended there. (http://seminoletheatre.org) The regular season has concluded, but there are several events during the summer and more will be added as they become available. Not long ago, a representative from WLRN Radio Theater contacted the on-site manager. I’ll admit I didn’t know there was such a thing, but there is, and the gentleman was excited about the Seminole being open. So, on July 22d, War of the Worlds will be presented. From what I understand, the stage will be the “broadcast station” that is doing the original broadcast from 1938. As the audience, we will be seeing into the radio station. I’m not sure how much lead-in and close-out there will be on either end of the broadcast, but it ought to be a fun evening. It is another 8-9:30 p.m. show and we’ll plan to either have appetizers somewhere before and dine late or eat before hand if we can make the timing fit. It will all depend on whether Hubby has afternoon boat that day. While it’s possible he might be off, this is peak dive season and it isn’t likely he won’t be working.

The are also doing Plan Nine From Outer Space in August, but we have no interest in that one. And speaking of no interest – Rocky Horror Picture Show (stage version) will be on-stage in October. I know I may be one of the few of my generation who has never seen it, but it’s true, and I don’t intend to change that. Hubby may go without me though and that’s fine – we do that sometimes.

Smoking Hot….

Even if you’re not a NASCAR fan, this post might be of interest. A brief explanation for those who aren’t familiar with NASCAR. Like any sport, fans have “their” drivers or drivers and ours is Tony Stewart. Although NASCAR has teams, unlike other sports, each driver must compete as hard as possible to win as an individual. Most NASCAR teams have 3-4 cars and there is an Owner’s Trophy as well as the individual cup, so an owner of one team might actually win the national owner award even though the individual driver who is the National Champion at the final race (held here in Homestead) might be from a different team. Okay, in the case of Tony Stewart, he is a driver-owner. At the end of the 2008 season, he left the Joe Gibbs Racing Team and merged to create Stewart-Haas Racing; originally with three cars, then they added a fourth. Tony won Rookie of the Year in 1999 and has accomplished a great many things in the world of racing. He’s won the National Championship three times, but then a series of setbacks occurred.

There was a terrible crash (not during a NASCAR race) that resulted in a broken leg and kept him out of an entire season. Then there was the tragic incident (also not during a NASCAR race) where Tony hit and killed a driver although despite a flurry of accusations, he was not at fault. It did, however, deeply affect him. At the end of last season, he announced he would be retiring as a driver after the 2016 Championship race. At age 45, that would give him 17 years in NASCAR. There was another injury, however, that kept him from the early part  of this season and fans as well as racing experts were concerned they might not see Tony (known as “Smoke”) attain any of his former glory. Last week, he ran very well the entire race for the first time in a long time, and yesterday was the day we had been waiting for. It was the Tony who had rightfully earned his reputation as one of the best drivers. He took the lead fairly late in the race, was holding off the other cars, yet on the last lap, it appeared he would come in second instead. In the kind of excitement that thrills fans, he maneuvered around though and saved the win. Most of the other drivers made a point to congratulate him as soon as possible. We’ll see what the rest of the season brings, but for the moment, he and we can enjoy the victory.

Salute to Summer Solstice……

In my Twitter account, I have a number of followers and individuals I follow who travel and others who make their living as travelers/travel writers. It’s hardly a surprise one of them posted a lovely shot of Stonehenge with the sun for Summer Solstice. That’s one of the items on our travel list. Stonehenge, not necessarily during Solstice. By the way, there’s a similar area of the Carnac Stones in the Brittany region of France and we’ll probably combine that trip someday. As I’ve posted in the past, for the time being, other than family-related and business trips, our vacations (fewer than we’d hoped due to several factors) are mostly devoted to diving. That will be the case for probably another decade, then we’ll work off the to-do list for places such as Stonehenge. Of course, I have promised Hubby the Whiskey Trail in Scotland as a priority and that does get a pretty high priority.

Even though I traveled the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxemburg) during my first tour to Germany, we didn’t make it up there when we were both assigned to Germany. Neither of us have been to Spain, Portugal, or Greece though and I definitely want to do Prague and quite possibly Budapest. Those two could well fall into the river cruise option which will definitely come after dive cruises. The issue of course is distance of travel and even though we’ve done the 3-4 day excursions to Paris in the past for Valentine’s Day, the 8-9 hour flights are becoming more tiring. I think with the long trips in the future, we’ll plan the two-week versions. And with that kind of time, we’d really hate to pass on diving, which is why returns to Europe will probably be delayed. As for Asia – those are truly long trips, but there is a new diving charter in Thailand. We’re still debating about if we want to include it in the mix.

Anyway, having now drifted from the original topic – Happy Summer to all!

“Science the ___Out of It”……

One of my all-time favorite movies is Apollo 13 and I have used it before as an example of the snobbery of the Oscars when director Ron Howard wasn’t even nominated as Best Director. That, however, is not the point of this post. We recently watched The Martian and I consider it to be right up there along with Apollo 13 especially since there is a scene about halfway through the movie which takes a line directly from the predecessor. (No, it isn’t “Houston, we have a problem.”) Anyway, having seen Gravity and Interstellar (both entertaining), what sets this one apart is the attention to the science. (This is an advantage of having a hubby who actually understands this stuff.)

Anyway, if you haven’t seen the movie, an astronaut is stranded by his team on Mars due to an error and one of the intriguing aspects are the multiple Public Relations issues when the error is realized and courses of action are subsequently considered. At one stage the stranded astronaut, played by Matt Damon, is faced with at first a seemingly impossible task in order to survive. In recording the problems and trying to think through a solution, he uses the term, “I’m going to have to science the shit out of this.” As the movie progresses, this is often the case, and virtually all of what is “worked out” is feasible rather than using what the Myth Busters refer to as “Hollywood physics”. Of course there are intensely dramatic moments and while a particular problem solved by an offer of international assistance might be a tad far-fetched considering current politics, it is a situation where what’s right might override politics. It does happen sometimes in the real world. This is another of those movies though where you do have to pay attention because there are some complexities.

History Can’t “Get It Wrong”…..

Musing content alert. I make it a point to try and stay away from politics. The intent of this post is to focus on a subject in what I intend as a relatively objective view and I hope it’s taken that way. In general, we in this country have a limited genuine appreciation for history in that we take what’s going on today and often don’t reach back into history for appropriate comparisons. When I say “back”, I mean sometimes centuries back. (I agree, in some cases we only need to go back a few decades to say, hmm, that didn’t work then, don’t think it will this time either. Conversely, hmm, that might have worked if we’d give it a bit more time.) A case in point. “Politics are nastier today than ever before.” I fully agree our politics are nasty and we should all work to be less polarizing and try to bring a reasonable degree of civility to the process. However, name-calling and backroom deals are not new – the language of old simply seems mild now and the capability to spread information at the touch of a button did not exist. Anyway, I am drifting off-course, so let me correct.

I love there is a history channel and lots of history programs. History can be dull when presented incorrectly and all the “re-enactment” helps make it more interesting, plus I can only imagine what a boost it’s been to struggling actors. The term though, “We’re going to tell you what history got wrong”, always causes me to roll my eyes. History is history. Granted, “History is written by the victors” (actual origin of quote unknown) and therefore the phrase, “What you’ve been taught is wrong” certainly can be applicable. Previously undiscovered documentation is brought to light all the time and the amazing world of forensics can support or refute different historical aspects both recorded and taught. But whatever happened is what happened. Mistakes can easily be made in the telling if an individual recording an event had a limited view of that event and indeed, events recorded by someone with a specific agenda were/are commonplace. It’s logical that what we’ve been taught about an event, a person, a time period might be incorrect based on new information available, but that’s different from the idea that history itself is wrong. I’m all for correcting history providing we don’t cross the line into revisionism, but I’ll save that for another post.

Fish Dish Variation….

I’m not stuck on doing food posts lately. It’s merely that many of us get into routines and sometimes forget to go back to recipes we enjoy and set aside for long periods. This is such a recipe and if I recall correctly, it’s a variation on one of Emeril’s, although don’t hold me to it. It’s Ham Wrapped Fish (If you don’t do pork, you can substitute 2-4 turkey bacon slices). This is a three-step cooking process of 4 minutes stovetop, then 4-5 minutes in a 400 degree oven, then another 1-2 minutes stovetop for the sauce. You need an oven-proof skillet.

Ingredients: 2 firm white fish fillets (halibut, mahi, or haddock are especially nice); 2-4 slices ham – enough to completely wrap the fillets; stone ground or some other similar mustard; 1/3 cup white wine (or 1/4 cup orange juice and 1 tbsp. butter).

Preheat oven to 400. Lay ham slice on cutting board, place fillet in the center; season with pepper, spread thin coat of mustard to cover the fish. Flip fillet, pepper and use mustard on other side, then wrap ham and secure with toothpicks. If the ham slice isn’t large enough to completely cover the fish, add an extra slice and tuck the edges so it makes a “packet”. If using turkey bacon slices, overlap them a little so there aren’t exposed parts of the fish.  I’ve found that I can usually angle the toothpicks in on the side to secure the wrap and that allows me to set the fillets in the skillet and turn them without everything falling apart. Heat the skillet to medium, coat the bottom with olive oil (1-2 tbsp) and bring to temperature (approximately one minute). Cook the fillets for two minutes on each side. Transfer the skillet to the oven for approximately four minutes. Place the fish on a plate and make a quick pan sauce over medium heat using the 1/3 cup white wine or the orange juice and butter. Be certain to scrape and stir the bits of ham or bacon into the sauce. This step takes 1-2 minutes. Pour over the fillets and serve. The mustard and ham are both likely to be a bit salty which is why I don’t salt the fillets before wrapping them.