Ah, the things that we can’t plan for. First, the flu bug has absolutely no sense of holidays and wings its nasty way about with exactly zero regard for what havoc it wreaks. However, it can be a mild case as opposed to severe and I suppose one can be grateful for that. I knew full well that my husband was coming down with whatever everyone else at the dive shop had and he chose to believe otherwise. By Sunday evening, it was difficult to deny how he really felt and by Monday when he was faced with a 10-hour drive to Georgia early the next morning, he admitted defeat. At that point, aside from the fact that he was dragging badly, we didn’t know if I would catch it and if I did, then I would be the contagious one in the midst of elderly mother, two infants, and a very pregnant second cousin. Not the sort of holiday cheer that one wishes to spread.
Okay, scratch the trip to Georgia and a neighbor who heard immediately offered for us to come to their house. A couple they had planned on wasn’t able to and she was already intending to cook for six. The expectation was that we would either go there or plates would be delivered to us. Fine, that’s a good back-up plan. Except, with a twelve-pound turkey on hand, her husband is not feeling well (not the flu) and there is no way for them to have a house full of company. Alright, this is manageable. The other couple going to her house actually lives closer to us and often dines with us. So, she will have a small meal with her husband, then bring turkey, a wonderful cranberry chutney that she prepared yesterday and perhaps potatoes to our place in the late afternoon. I dashed to the store to get green bean casserole, frozen apple pie, Stove Top stuffing, and a jar of gravy – no chastisement will be accepted at this point for taking shortcuts. I will make the lovely artichoke and cheese spread from scratch since I had offered to do that anyway. None of that even addresses the other set of good deeds that I will be doing for much of Friday, but that is most assuredly a different subject. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
We’ve been talking so long about the Australia trip that what we’re beginning to hear is, “haven’t you left yet?” or “oh, how was the trip?”. It isn’t that it’s been a constant topic so much as it is that we’ve been repeatedly asked to participate in things during that time frame and each time we explain why we can’t, the trip is described again. With that said, as usual I committed to way too many tasks to complete before our departure and I am almost at the point of having those completed and setting aside a few that genuinely can wait. The house sitter situation is lined up and those associated tasks taken care of.
Part of the confusion is because we are driving to Georgia for Thanksgiving with my husband’s family, then scooting back to leave not much more than 12 hours later to begin the first of multiple legs to get to Australia. We have to have the Australia bags packed before we go in order to double-check everything – especially the documentation. We’ve decided to pack light and do laundry in-country. With all the moving about we’ll be doing we don’t want to haul a lot of luggage with us. Plus, considering what the airlines charge for luggage, having laundry done will be a cheaper option. If we pull this off, I’ll take a photo later to show what we did.
My plans for posting will be as we did for the Belize trip. I will do a day-by-day blog and then post as often as we can. Our connectivity will be intermittent, depending on where we are. I don’t expect issues in the urban areas, but out in the Coral Sea will be a no-go and I’m not sure about when we’re out at Ayers Rock in the Northern Territory. We are going to be flexible about which excursions we will take once we are in-country and see how we’re feeling. Yes, we know there will be a lot of things that we won’t see, but the again, it is a very large country.
Red hibiscus after being dramatically cut back
Sentimentality alert! First though, my apologies for not having posted for the past few days. It has been particularly hectic with a number of commitments that required more effort than I had anticipated. Ah well, we all underestimate tasks at times. With that said – I want to talk about the red hibiscus in the photo. If you’ve been following the blog, you know we have had a considerable amount of work done in our back yard. If you are new to the blog – welcome – and we allowed the back yard to get rather out of control and brought in a landscape designer to correct it. One of the mistakes we made was with the red hibiscus that we have. When we first moved into this house, my best friend who lived next door gave us the red hibiscus in the standard three-gallon plastic pot as a house-warming present. Since we intended to put the pool and hot tub in and have our tropical paradise in back, we decided to leave the hibiscus in that container until the pool was finished. Well, that was before we knew of all the delays we were going to encounter. The poor hibiscus lingered, somewhat neglected and became rather scraggly. By the time we transplanted it into a beautiful large ceramic pot, we were concerned that perhaps we’d neglected it too much. However, it took to its new home and flourished.
In fact, what we didn’t know was that when you plant something like a hibiscus in a container, it’s important to move it around periodically because otherwise, the main root will find that hole in the container and grow through it into the ground. Now, we did notice that the magnificently flowering shrub was getting quite large and our second mistake was in not trimming it back. Then, sadly, my dear friend passed away at much too young an age as the cancer she had once beat came back with a vengeance. For me, the now thriving hibiscus was a symbol of the friendship we had enjoyed for too brief a time. I asked our regular lawn care guys to transplant it into the yard and that was when we discovered that the root was so firmly attached that if we attempted to transplant, it would likely destroy the hibiscus as well as the pot.
Okay, so when we brought in the landscape designer, I explained the situation and she said she had a potential solution, although she couldn’t guarantee that it would work. She cut the hibiscus back to practically nothing and said that if it grew back, as she though it would, to just keep it trimmed to a manageable level. The blossom in the photo is the first since “the surgery” and there are some more buds. We shall see if this works, but it does look promising.
As I have posted in the past, I am cautious of many environmental groups/causes due to the tendency to take unyielding positions that are often not rooted in either practicality or an understanding of the “big picture” of how working with business can often lead to genuinely sustainable solutions. And please do not misinterpret that statement – I fully agree that there are numerous areas in which we need to improve when it comes to taking care of Mother Earth and Mother Ocean. With that said, while we were in Orlando at the big dive trade show (DEMA), I had the chance to go by the Reef Ball (http://www.reefball.org) booth although I did not get by the Coral Restoration Foundation one. (http://www.coralrestoration.org/) These are two organizations that are doing extraordinary work in helping to protect and/or restore reef systems in South Florida and around the globe. They take two very different approaches; the details of which can be seen at their respective web sites.
What makes these organizations even more remarkable than the success of their projects is that neither was founded by some well-known, highly credentialed group. In the case of Reef Ball, it was an avid diver and his father who had seen severe reef damage in the Cayman Islands after a hurricane and began to think of a way in which easily manageable modules could be manufactured to serve as artificial reefs. The concept was to have something with a relatively low-cost that could be installed with only a few “experts” and other team members could be volunteers. Twenty years later, more than 4,000 projects impacting 70+ countries have benefitted from this technology.
The Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) had an even more modest beginning of being a 4-H daughter-father project. As with Reef Ball, CRF has now gained international attention and they are continuing to expand their capabilities. Volunteer divers from around the world join into projects along with notable colleges, universities, and other organizations. If you have some time, do visit their web sites and prepare to be amazed at what you see.
Okay, we are once again venturing into the tricky world of orchids. For those who have followed this blog, we have so far managed to keep only one orchid thriving and that’s the one affixed to the palm tree out front. It appears that technique is the most likely to work for we who have difficulty. This time, though, I went out to the Orchid Show late last month at RF Orchids that was sponsored by the East Everglades Orchids Society (http://www.orchidseeos.com/) and spent some time with a very helpful gentleman who walked me around and then guided me to another grower to discuss our particular yard. Their encouragement was most helpful and we shall see if it was useful.
The two orchids shown in this post are the beginning of what will be a total collection of probably four if these flourish. I’m not sure that I want to push our luck beyond that, although I won’t count it out either. The whole idea that we can grown orchids in our yard is one of the reasons that we live here after all, and overcoming my many years of “plant killing” is something that I ought to be able to accomplish. The focus to do so is one of the things that I have lacked as well as access to expertise. Since we have plenty of expertise now available to us, that problem is solved. My ability to absorb that information and put it to practical use is the real question now and only time will tell about that.
Delicate orchid blossom
When we attend the big dive show in Orlando, our last night tradition is to dine at the Everglades in the Rosen Center. It is the “fine dining” choice at the hotel and always a pleasant experience. As I’ve previously posted, the experience should be the whole package of food, service, and ambience and the Everglades meets all the criteria. I don’t know who they brought in for the décor, but in addition to a wonderful mural on the wall and the aquarium, they have a series of sculptures although I’m not entirely sure of the medium used. A Florida panther is poised with egrets in the background, an alligator winds along another section, a mother and baby manatee are suspended from the ceiling, etc., and the room has a cozy feel.
The menu is not extensive, focusing instead on freshness and innovation with alligator chowder being their signature appetizer/first course. As with the Funky Monkey Restaurant, they had a salad that featured pieces of grilled pineapple, so I don’t know if that is a local trend or something new in the overall industry. Even though we frequently opt for the buffalo or wild game choices, we stuck with seafood last night – swordfish for me and grouper for my husband. We also indulged in a dessert sampler, splitting it as we always do with desserts. There are many fine dining experiences in Orlando and I wouldn’t say that the Everglades is so far above them that it is “the place” to go. After all, just down at Point Orlando is an Oceanaire and a Capital Grill. Everglades is well worth what you spend though and it does deliver that complete package that we look for in that price point.
Okay, it was the second day of the dive show and my husband attended two very technical seminars and we attended one semi-technical session together. That had to do with physiology and I could follow about 70% of the discussion. We then went in search of the dive travel people and the Australian lady who is part of the staff for the dive trip that we will be going on. We managed to find both and during the course of the conversation with the Australian lady (mild accent), she was giving us extra details about the dive sites we would visit and one area in particular that is well known for all the sharks we are likely to see. Oh goody, just what I like. My husband was naturally thrilled to hear this as he genuinely is disappointed on these trips if he doesn’t get sharks. Allegedly, they’ll be mostly grays which are “normal size” – not more than 6-8 feet long. It isn’t that I mind diving with sharks; it’s more than I don’t mind not seeing them.
Restaurant-wise, we wound up eating at Copper Canyon Wed and the Funky Monkey Wine Restaurant and Bistro last night. The only problem when we travel and can’t do leftovers is we then either have to leave food, find things we can share or I do all appetizers/small plates. That part is something I do fairly often though. I have found that at times, 2-3 appetizers, or splitting a salad with my husband and then me having two appetizers is the perfect amount. There was an intriguing salad of mixed greens, grilled pineapple chunks, prosciutto, and a light rum-based dressing. We shared that and then I had the shrimp risotto and lump crab cake small plates which worked well for me.
Okay, for those who dive, you may already know about the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA), that’s the over-arching industry group that covers every aspect of scuba. There are a lot of great dive shows that are held throughout the year, but this is the one that is not open to the general public. It is Business-to-Business stuff so you have a chance to see the latest and greatest in technology, innovation, and products or services that you don’t always associate with scuba. In some cases, it’s scuba-related only because scuba is an outdoor sport that includes physical activity. For example, cool cameras are cool cameras no matter what you do, but if you go underwater, you need a special housing. So, while the housing is unique to that, the camera itself is the same they would have at any other type of show. It’s the same with much of the travel. A dive resort is set up to cater to divers, yet most have activities for non-divers and they would market those at other venues. Anyway, the point is that even if you don’t understand the hardcore technical parts of diving, there’s a lot to see and during the next couple of days, I’ll be sure and include plenty of that.
The show is at the Convention Center in Orlando and we’re staying at the Rosen which is in easy walking distance of Pointe Orlando, a dining/shopping/entertainment complex. Last time we were here, we discovered the Funky Monkey Wine Company and that could well be where we go tonight. On the other hand, there is a Copper Canyon that we really like, and a place called The Tavern that we haven’t tried. If I remember correctly, there’s an Italian place as well (wouldn’t there be?), and maybe three or four others that we either don’t know about or haven’t gotten to. Oh, and the Rosen has added a 98FortyTapas and Tequila that sounds intriguing. I will keep you posted as to what we decide.
Thoughtful content alert. Volunteering to do good is a wonderful thing – something that I do and have often encouraged others to engage in, especially Baby Boomers who may finally be at the stage where there is time to spend in volunteer activities. In truth, there are almost always more volunteer opportunities than volunteers and choosing where to put one’s time can be tricky. So, you pick something that you feel strongly about, whether it’s cultural in nature, philanthropic, community support, or whatever. And then, well, then you can occasionally run headlong into an unexpected situation that may cause you to re-think the whole thing. The reality is that people volunteer for lots of reasons, and in some cases, those reasons are firmly attached to personal agendas that may little, if anything, to do with the good of whatever organization/group/effort you’re volunteering with. It’s human nature and that, folks, ain’t likely to change.
It may be mild enough that you can shrug it off as an irritant, a roll-your-eyes sort of response that a glass of wine (or whatever) can sooth over. At other times though, the involved party or parties may dig into a position that begins to cause you genuine stress. There are a variety of things to try if faced with this – perhaps it is all a difference of perspectives that can be resolved with a heart-to-heart conversation. Perhaps there is some background that you are unaware of that can shed light on the subject to the degree that it can revert to being an irritant rather than a stressor. If not, then it could be time to walk away. Any relationship can become dysfunctional to the point of no longer being worth the emotional investment and that includes volunteering. There are always canned excuses one can use to depart – yes, I’m talking maybe taking a dip into the “white lie” barrel, but in these cases, candor isn’t likely to be productive. If you need to walk away, don’t do it abruptly if you can avoid it, though. Give some notice, and then take a few weeks off from volunteering as you decide on another worthy project. There are plenty and you’ll find a good fit.
Okay, as we are actually, finally coming up on the great Australia trip, I am faced with one of those odd situations where making arrangements months in advance is causing me problems. It’s supposed to be a good thing to take care of complicated arrangements beforehand, but I suppose in today’s world, changes are to be expected. First, the airline has changed the connecting flight from LAX and there is a high probability that we will miss the flight. The good news is that there are two other flights later that evening, but then we will be faced with the seat situation for a 14-hour flight. I refuse to think about that very much though because I have already contacted the airline with my concerns and have been told, essentially, “Oh, we’re sure it will work out.” Uh huh.
Next, the four-day dive trip we’re supposed to be booked on, may or may not be reserved, since it appears that between me and the booking agent, the down payment may not have occurred even though I sent the authorization. Hoping to unsnarl that one tomorrow. As you can imagine, I am not entirely pleased with all of this, however, I suspect it will sort itself out. Part of the reason for my confidence is that the companies involved on the dive part will all be in Orlando this week, so we can talk with humans if we have to.
Speaking of trip to Orlando – that’s the huge, and I do mean huge, dive show that rotates through Orlando every two years. We always have a good time and see lots of people we know, plus often meet a few new ones. It’s a little more hectic this year though since I’m juggling a number of commitments to take care of before we leave and as soon as we return. I am trying – really I am, not to then totally cram up the week before Thanksgiving, so I can maybe get as prepared for the long trip as I would like to be. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.