NJ Trip, Briefly Lovely……..

Ah yes, the one thing you really can’t do anything about. The clouds from yesterday disappeared, the sun shone, and the temperature shot up to 70, which for me was great. It was startling for others. The hotel where I am staying is a very short walk from the exhibition center and as if turns out, backs onto a retail/restaurant area that has several nice dining choices. Scheduling kept me from having a normal dinner last night, although that shouldn’t be an issue again. Lunch will be and that’s why I have a protein bar back-up. Anyway, in the relatively short time from when I came back into the room before headed to the evening presentation, the rain arrived. Not a downpour, yet definitive and that’s when I discovered the umbrella I brought is defective. It works, although it won’t stay open unless I hold it open with my hand supporting it from underneath, which is rather awkward. Ah well, at least I only have to go short distances. There aren’t many trees budding yet, although there are some in bloom and daffodils, those bringers of Spring, are brightly yellow and also bring a smile when you see them.

This area of NJ is actually where Richie Kohler “came to fame” as a diver, and he has been a “star” of this show for several years. Trying to keep him on schedule is a little tricky since everyone wants more of his time than he can give and still keep up with other people waiting. On the other hand, there are certainly worse problems to have. It will be a busy day.

Trip Ahead….

Mystery of the Last Olympian is scheduled for a Feb 2016 release.

Mystery of the Last Olympian is scheduled for a Feb 2016 release.

Well, I have been told that the big dive show, Beneath the Sea, in New Jersey is the largest consumer dive show in the country (and maybe the world). We’ve never attended because we see lots of folks when we’re at the Orlando show every other year and we generally travel (as we did) to Washington every March or April so turning around to make a second trip isn’t something we like to do. This year, of course, Richie Kohler is a featured speaker about exploring the shipwreck Britannic, and we’ll have multiple signings of the book. Hubby can’t go with me since it’s still very busy here in the dive community. Since I’m completely unfamiliar with the area, I’m going up on the early flight, but that was rather than me spending an extra day up there. Although I could have booked a flight back Sunday night, I’m not really keen on trying to leave out of a place and catch a flight that would then cause me to have to drive back from the airport at night after a long day. Not that I haven’t done it, but I try not to put myself in those circumstances unless it’s really necessary.

I also don’t have the faintest idea if I’ll be dining on anything other than hotel food. I will take protein bars as a caution to have one in my purse if I can’t do something like stop for lunch. Evenings should be fine and there could be several good restaurants around. So stay tuned for the adventures to be had at the Meadow Lands Exhibition Center in Seacaucus, NJ. According to the gentleman I spoke with earlier when arranging transport from the airport, at least the rain is supposed to hold off tomorrow. That was nice to hear. Now we’ll see what Mother Nature decides to do.

Assessing Stress….

Somewhat serious content alert. Okay, this isn’t a bubbly Easter greeting, but due to a couple of different situations, I’ve recently been giving extra thought to the stress that impacts our lives. Perhaps more accurately, I’ve been thinking of how our responses to stressors affect us. The Serenity Prayer really does capture the essence of need to differentiate what we can and can’t control. As humans, we can easily get tangled up between the two. I’m not talking about the far ends of the behavioral spectrum when someone frequently plunges into depression or total denial when an individual refuses to accept there’s a problem to deal with.  The focus for this post is the “normal range” of people who face our modern lives with lots of demands.

Bad things happen to good people and those, in general, are things we can’t control. There are, however, plenty of stressors in our lives that we have some measure of control over, yet don’t necessarily exercise that control or recognize the temporary nature of the stressor. An example that covers both these situations is when we overcommit. I’ve written before about my reluctance to say, “No”, to requests and while I have gotten a little better, what seems to work best is for me to try and “lump” my overcommitting so it’s a tough stretch for a given period, then I can recharge. It might not be the right solution for other people, but the point is to find what works for you as an individual. And that leads into a much trickier issue.

Most of us overreact at times and might need someone to help us put things into perspective. There are people though who seem to seek stress and want to pull others into the same degree of frenzy. This is where we sometimes have to step back and say, “Hmm, do I need this?”  When you’re around incredibly “high maintenance” individuals, it can be somewhat contagious and you might find yourself responding with more drama to something than you otherwise would. This is where you can decide to pull away and either come up with a plausible excuse or be candid (which might also cause you stress) and accept that the other individual/individuals might never understand why. Again, most of us deal with enough stress on a regular basis and metaphorically speaking, it can be like cleaning out that closet where you’ve been shoving things in until you can barely close the door. If someone or something is crowding out your “comfortable emotional space” it may be time to get the big garbage bags out or at least box things up to give to charity.

A Soup Option……

I love soup, but in trying to watch my carbs, there are two issues – first is most soups with any kind of “character” tend to be high in carb. I mean, cheddar potato and chicken with brown and wild rice are right on up there. And any sort of crackers, chips, or nice chunks of bread accompanying the soup add to the mix. The spicy fish stew we make (it’s in the old posts) is one of the few that’s low calorie, low fat, low carb, and tastes like an actual meal. As you may have noticed from the posts of our trip, dining was a part of it and not surprisingly, I need to spend the time between this and the trip coming up next week taking it easy on carbs to re-balance. It so happens I still had some frozen turkey stock and got to thinking. If I used a fair amount of turkey and one of the bulk sausages and took it easy on the veggies with a focus on celery, onion, and peppers, plus a can of cream soup to give some body, that would keep it relatively low carb.

In my case, I enjoy spice, so I opted for hot sausage, but it can be any type. I picked up a package of fresh turkey tenderloins that I cut into small pieces. Then it was 2 stalks celery diced, 1/2 sweet yellow pepper, diced, 1/2 small onion diced. I browned the sausage and the turkey, then moved them aside in the pot and softened the veggies. For spices, I went southwestern and used smoke sea salt (1/2 tsp), several grounds of black pepper, and cumin (1/2 tsp). I had two cups of turkey stock and 1 can of cream of celery soup. I added some water (about 1/2 cup) to get the consistency I wanted, stirred everything together well, brought it to a boil, then took it down to low for another 30 minutes. It’s a nice combination and enough “body” to be filling. You could play with the combination of spices to be milder with something like rosemary, basil, oregano, and thyme – probably 1/4 tsp each. Zucchini is another low carb vegetable, but I don’t care for it cooked.

Time to Return Home…..

Okay, I have gotten wimpy about the cold, although in all fairness, if I go to a cold climate in winter, I expect to bundle up. Hitting a high of 45 on what is the second day of spring, however, just doesn’t feel right. I mean, yes, if we were in the Dakotas or up in the mountains, but anyway, such is the variability of this area. I haven’t checked our flight status yet to see if everything is on time – I’ll do that when I finish this post. Yesterday was lunch with the kids at the Dogfish Brewery (or maybe it’s just a restaurant and they bring their beer in) and a nice sampling of both food and beverage. Not being at the age yet of a kid’s meal, Amelia samples a little of everything. Oyster crackers really are perfect kid-size and a French fry is always welcome. Salmon and grilled chicken were happily munched on and while a piece of lettuce was fine, asparagus did not meet with approval. It is rather a strong taste.

Oh, on Saturday when my dear friend and I were out and about, we ran across a place called Cava Fresh Mezzzo (I think was the name). We weren’t in any of our regular spots and it looked intriguing. It was one of those build-your-own places like a Chipolte except with Mediterranean cuisine. You could do a rice bowl, salad, pita, or mini-pita and soup. They had multiple spreads for the pitas – I went with a spicy roasted pepper one. Protein choices were beef meatballs, lamb meatballs, chicken, shredded spiced beef, or they had falafel balls and also roasted vegetables. There were various toppings such as diced cucumbers in an herbed yogurt sauce, tapenade, etc. Considering the wet and cold of the day, we opted for the mini-pita and a wonderful roasted tomato soup. They did not serve alcohol and I didn’t give the beet lemonade a try. The food was delicious and we had scooted in just ahead of the crowd, so it was a pleasant experience. I don’t know if this is a regional chain, but if you run across one, I can recommend it.

The 20th Anniversary Performance……

I suppose it actually has been ten years since we first watched our son in a performance with the Bowen-McCauley Dance Company (http://bmdc.org). At least the Playbill from last night said he’s in his tenth season with them. Well, them being Lucy. She is an amazing woman in so many ways. To survive in the dance world as a small performing company is difficult enough. To consistently win awards and be regarded as the best small company in the area is even tougher. She does this through absolutely tireless efforts, a complete understanding of how the arts scene functions, and forging lots of ties. I’ve written before about how she incorporates live music into her performances, but another example is she is often asked to bring a piece to an embassy. For those not familiar with D.C., “Embassy Row” is just that – many of the embassies are located in and around Dupont Circle and most are quite large. They have frequent receptions and as part of those will often have perhaps a string quartet or pianist. Because Lucy is well-established she has been invited to have a duo, trio, or quartet piece which fits well into those type of spaces.

Anyway, because last night was celebrating the 20th year (15th at the Kennedy), she had created a 3-part Ars Amatoria, based on the 2-000 year old writing by Ovid advising young men how to woo women. It was done with plenty of whimsy and multiple instruments (to include a bass clarinet) and the addition of a pink-clad Cupid dancing about to assist the humans in their efforts at love. The audience enjoyed it and I haven’t checked the Washington Post yet to see how they reacted. They usually review her performances.

Although the temperature here has dropped considerably, at least the precipitation isn’t as heavy as had initially been predicted. Today will be filled with taking the kids to lunch, then everyone coming for dinner at our friends.

Travel Day……

Our annual trip to DC is usually timed to catch the Kennedy Center performance of our son in the Bowen McCauley Dance Company (http://www.bmdc.org) (He’s the Kimball one). The timing for that changes slightly each year and the one year we said, “Not happening”, was when they set the schedule for February. Having experienced enough winters in DC we knew the probability and sure enough they had to reschedule one of the performances due to snow and ice. March, as the time for the famous cherry blossoms to appear, is tricky. Yesterday when we arrived was wonderful – okay, a little cool for us, but sunny and fine with a heavy long sleeve top. Unfortunately, the prediction that drove us to lug along the coats is for temperatures to tumble and have a mix of rain and maybe snow starting late today. Ah well, so it goes.

We almost always stay with some good friends and get caught up. Last night, being a Friday was understandably crowded in the couple of restaurants we tried. We hadn’t made reservations because we weren’t entirely certain of our schedules. So we called en route to the Mount Vernon Inn and since that is a little out of the way (not from where they live), we were all set. And yes, if you aren’t familiar with it, that is the sit-down restaurant at Mount Vernon. It is a lovely place with a fairly small menu, but something for everyone. Salmon, braised lamb shank, pork chop and I had one of the specialties you can’t get much outside of this region. It was a hoecake (grilled corn cake) topped with ham and lump crap with hollandaise sauce. The ham and crab combination is a special country-type ham and the proportion has to be just right or the balance is off. When done correctly, it’s delicious.

Today will be errands day and then an early dinner at the Rooftop Terrace Restaurant at the Kennedy Center prior to the performance. Another old friend is coming down from PA with her daughter to join us.

Wearing of the Green…..

We are both properly attired today and the Shepard’s Pie is in the fridge since my timing wasn’t going to work with making it tonight. (Yay for microwaves.) Neither of us care for corned beef and cabbage, but Guinness is chilling even as I type this. Although it is true that everyone can be Irish today, there is a mix of that along with Scottish, English (there’s a combo for you), French, and Dutch strains in my ancestry. I suppose since the Celts once roamed far into Europe, there could be other lines involved, but I really don’t plan to send a swab in for DNA testing to find out. Both sides of my family are pretty well documented done the old fashioned way. I do have to track down the book from the Ruffins (Ruthven originally) that I hope one of my cousins has, and the Pickett side (maternal) is safe in the hands of my aunt.

We will be prudent tonight though since we have an early start tomorrow and a long day into evening ahead. At least it isn’t as bad as the St Patrick’s Day when I was flying back from Maine, and had a significant delay at either LaGuardia or JFK. Under most circumstances, it would have been fine with a delay in a NY airport. The problem was I had driven myself to the airport, plus gone out of Fort Lauderdale, and wasn’t scheduled to get in until after 11:00 p.m. Imbibing very much really wasn’t an option. Ah well, then there was the St Patrick’s Day when we were still deployed in the aftermath of Desert Storm. That was definitely not a party atmosphere, and in actuality, not much green to wear considering we were all in desert camouflage. Trust me when I say green isn’t what you see in the sands of Saudi Arabia.


A Year Gone By…..

Amelia Margaret's 1st Birthday

Amelia Margaret’s 1st Birthday

I did promise I wouldn’t use the blog to brag on our granddaughter and I won’t in general. Yesterday was her first birthday and while we will see her next week, it isn’t so much the fact of the birthday happening as it is how very quickly an entire year has passed. For her mom and dad of course, it’s been an adjustment as it always is. Since they don’t live in a very large place, and won’t likely be moving, creative space solutions have been put into play. It will be interesting to see how that works out because walking is imminent.

It’s obviously been an exceptionally busy year for us between Hubby getting more involved with his photography and my work on Mystery of the Last Olympian. All of those commitments unfortunately caused us not to take our October trip to the D.C. area, but we just couldn’t fit everything in. And so, the whole year sped past and here we are with essentially the month of March spoken for and a fair amount of April. A while ago when a dear friend was coming up on her retirement, she expressed concern about how to fill her time. After I stopped laughing, I assured her that wouldn’t be a problem. Within a few months, she was instead asking, “How did I ever find time for work?” For those of us who are products of living longer and healthier, “retirement” is far more a change in what we do rather than big chunks of leisure to fill. Between volunteering and being able to take on work that’s personally satisfying (not necessarily financially rewarding), the days do zip along. That’s one of the reasons I love the C&W song, “Don’t Blink.” If you aren’t familiar with it, look the lyrics up, or listen to it, and the odds are you’ll find yourself nodding along.

What Do You Mean, She Doesn’t Like Me?……

I had an interesting discussion recently and it’s related to previous posts I’ve written about the power of external validation. A number of years ago there was a TV comedy series, “Caroline in the City”. The title character (I don’t recall the actress’s name) was from Wisconsin and thus was often puzzled about the ways of New York. In one particular episode, she discovered a woman had expressed dislike for her and she was dismayed. “What do mean she doesn’t like me? I’m from Wisconsin. We have to be liked!” (Or words to that effect.) Not surprisingly, the episode was about her efforts to win the woman over, which in a comedy meant things went amusingly downhill.

In a slightly more serious vein, it usually is a shock to the emotional system to discover that someone doesn’t like you, and it’s worse when you realize someone may actually loathe you. If you’ve crossed an individual and staked out opposite sides on an issue that’s one thing. But if you can’t pinpoint an incident of disagreement, you may be forced to come to grips with the reality that there are people who simply don’t like you. Why? Who knows? Perhaps you unwittingly offended them. Perhaps you got crossways with a friend of theirs and it’s the old schoolyard issue of, “You can’t be my friend and like her/him, too.” Perhaps you remind the individual of someone they despise and they can’t get past that. It doesn’t really matter because ultimately, there is little you can do if someone chooses to dislike you. Now, there have been a few occasions when someone confessed to having not liked me initially and then changed after actually getting to know me, and that was always an interesting conversation.

Simplistically speaking, part of the need for external validation and wanting to be liked is a primordial defense against the fear of being banished, and for those who embrace Maslow, “Belonging” is listed right above “Safety” in a similar linkage. We are social creatures and for most of us, rejection is tough to take. The phrase, “Well, I don’t care what they think,” may be what one says while covering up the sting, or it may be accurate because there really are people whose opinions will be of no value to you.