Some Day, But Not Yet…..

In having a delightful “Girlfriend” lunch today, the subject of several military things came up. We’re having Wings Over Homestead, this amazing air show at Homestead Air Reserve Base for the first time in four years. (Sat & Sun 4-5 Nov). The Thunderbirds have come  in as have other visiting aircraft and there will be all kinds of different displays and demonstrations. I wound up discussing military transport and logistics, talking about how one designs tanks, (that had to do with how many tanks can fit onto a C-5 airplane), water production capability, the extent of the Army’s watercraft fleet, etc., We ranged among a lot of other topics as well – from riding motorcycles to choosing between independent and assisted living. Hey, we never quite know what all we’ll cover when we get started.

Anyway, it brought to mind a meeting last week about a potential project and someone asked my why I haven’t written a book about my military experience. One particular long segment of my career, 1974-1992, saw a tremendous shift in the Army as to how women were treated and policy changes. By virtue of timing, I was a part of events that contributed to some of these changes. So many of them though seem like they should have obviously been changed and it’s difficult for people to realize it “hadn’t always been that way”. Plus, quite frankly, there are certain events that occurred that even with not providing names, it would be really easy to identify whom I would be talking about and I’m not prepared to do that yet. Not that it’s anything scandalous, but it is highly personal. I’ll probably be ready in another ten or fifteen years because at some point I do want my son and more importantly our granddaughter to know about this aspect of my life.

Halloween Fun….

I’ve known  a few people who choose Halloween as their favorite holiday. One neighbor always converted their garage into a haunted house and seemed to come up with a few new ideas each year. They were well past having their own kids at home and the husband just took great pleasure in planning and putting it together. A few female friends have been the incredibly “crafty” type who either make the great costumes or who put together a party with the perfect decorations and clever food. Since son was actually due on Halloween and came a few days early on Oct 25th, for a long time, his parties tended to be Halloween-themed. My “craftiness”, however, was pretty much confined to picking out an appropriate cake to buy. The one extra thing I did when he was young was buy three or four different costumes in the after-Halloween sales and he would play whatever characters they were until the costumes wore out.

Our Halloween decorations for the house aren’t extensive, but we’ve added a few things over the years with mostly a skeleton focus. A couple are scary and there’s a whimsical hanger one for the door. I do always use a witch’s cauldron or jack-o-lantern container for the candy. We generally give out 6-7 large bags worth of candy as there are lots of kids around and I actually have a smaller container with non-chocolate, non-nut for the handful who identify as needing that. (Yes, Hubby rolls his eyes a bit at the gesture.) Anyway, we’re breaking with tradition this year because the Seminole Theater is having the WLRN Radio Theater show of Dracula (adapted for radio by Orson Wells). We are really enjoying that series and I wasn’t sure which way Hubby wanted to go. Turns out he figures the kids do get plenty of candy and they probably won’t have the same production next year. Hmm, I wonder if the theater staff will be in costume?

The Family Farm…..

It’s funny how certain memories come to the forefront. In having breakfast with my dear friend this morning, a conversation worked its way around to dealing with string beans. That led to recalling summers at home of shelling beans and peas for fresh produce and of course putting up many quarts in the freezer. On a larger scale though than the garden Daddy always had were the weeks we kids spent on our paternal grandparents’ farm in Arkansas. I think it was a two-week stretch each year, but could have been longer. As I believe I’ve mentioned in a previous post, none of the four boys wanted the family farm and so Papaw leased out most of his land after they all left home. He maintained a couple of pastures for the cows and a large garden. There was the pig pen, the chicken coop, and smokehouse as well. He even had his own small forge for doing basic repairs and the horse he used for the garden and driving the handful of grazing cows out in the morning and back in the afternoon to the appropriate pasture. The two or three dairy cows required twice a day milking as they do. Papaw took care of all the livestock except the chickens which were Mamaw’s domain. When we were old enough to be entrusted, we would gather eggs for her. So, they had fresh milk, fresh cream, and she made their own butter. The garden, once Papaw plowed and planted it, was also her domain in addition to all the household chores and cooking. There was always work to be done and for the most part, we kids enjoyed helping out during our short visits.

A lot of canning still took place since the farm had been established well before individual families had freezers. And items like pickles and preserves were better suited to canning anyway. What a process that was with sterilizing the jars, etc., in the summer in Arkansas with no air conditioning. (Not that anyone had A.C. in those days).  I have to agree with my sister in believing Mamaw made some of the best pickles in the world. I don’t know if she used a recipe or if she did, if it was passed down. I know neither of us have it. Those are too often the things you don’t think about until it’s too late.

Temperature Dropped…..

Goodness, I had to turn the seat heaters on in the car yesterday morning. It is, however, a matter of perspective. As many of you who follow the blog know, Richie Kohler was here for a series of events presenting exploration on Britannic and of course selling and autographing Mystery of the Last Olympian: Titanic’s Tragic Sister Britannic. He’s been traveling a lot – Malta, Greece, England, here, Canada, and he wanted to be able to have at least a nice Sunday afternoon at home. As you also know, I’m up early every morning and very early some mornings, so leaving here at 4:00 a.m. to take him to the airport wasn’t an issue. I had been told the temperature was supposed to drop, but didn’t check it or put on a long-sleeved shirt. Going up, we were chatting away about different things and I didn’t notice it was cooler. On the trip back though I glanced at the temperature and heavens above, it was 65. Now, I do realize 65 degrees at 4:45 a.m. on 23 Oct would be welcome in a number of other places. For us though, that’s a definite chill and the seat heater was exactly what I needed.

I warned Hubby since he had morning boat and he rummaged in the closet for a fleece to wear and I did swap to a long sleeve tee when I donned my walking clothes. The temperature was already headed back up at that point and I might could have been okay otherwise, but it was actually rather pleasant. This morning is “more normal” at 73 and I guess will be around 80 later. No doubt a number of people will be checking the location of their sweaters and jackets though as this little taste reminds us we have mostly passed from the intense summer heat.

Busy Few Days……

It’s funny how timing can work out. Back about a year ago when I was scheduled to present at the History of Diving Museum on our book, Mystery of the Last Olympian: Titanic’s Tragic Sister, Britannic (, I had never heard of the ensemble, Chance. I certainly didn’t know they were going to be on a nation-wide tour with a musical tribute about the National Parks Centennial. I also didn’t know that Richie Kohler might be available to be here to do the presentation instead of me. So, when Homestead Center for the Arts ( was approached about sponsoring the Seminole Theater concert for Chance on Fri, Oct 21st, that set an idea into motion. The History of Diving Museum appearance was Wed, Oct 19th – the concert two nights later. Our two National Parks (especially Biscayne) feature water. Homestead Main Street does fun festivals downtown, but has never had a sea-themed one. Could we link these things? A quick check with Richie’s schedule and yes, he could stay over. In fact, he could get in a couple of days of diving – one with his good friends who have Conch Republic Divers and one with Horizon Divers where Hubby works. And so, the concept for the Seahunts Festival for Sat, Oct 22d was locked into place.

Now, anyone who has ever put on an event knows there is a lot of planning and many moving parts. Although I wasn’t in charge of any of the events, I was obviously involved. That’s okay, in my other life, I did similar things. What I forgot about was all of this was taking place 19-22 Oct which happens to be the third week of Oct. The third week of each month is also when all three boards I am a member of meet. Tomorrow will be the trickiest of them since the Board Meeting is at 3:00 and I have to go directly from there to the Seminole Theater for the VIP reception that starts at 5:00 followed by the Chance performance at 7:00. And even though the Seahunts Festival Saturday is from 1-5, there is set-up, plus dinner out, and then the matter of getting Richie to the airport Sunday at shall we say a very early hour. Ah well, at least his travel went smoothly yesterday and the presentation at the Diving Museum drew in about 75 people. It was a good start to what will be a busy few days that will be a lot of fun, too.

Little Conveniences…..

I rarely do brand endorsements of products and in this case, there is probably more than one brand that can accomplish the same purpose. In two very different aspects of little things being convenient, we recently had to replace our washer and dryer. I had thought I wanted one of the front-load washers up on the pedestal, maybe even in one of the new great colors they have. Then I looked at the price and took into consideration the fact our laundry room is exactly that. It’s large enough to have the W&D, the iron and ironing board, various cleaning implements and adequate shelving. It’s not like some houses where the laundry is part of a back entry into a house. I also looked at a Whirlpool on sale (and they have been making appliances for a long time) and saw they had a feature with a specific setting for bulky items/bed linens. You know how it is – you wash sheets and somehow stuff gets tangled in them and literally twists around into kind of a ball. With this new design, the blades of the agitator in the tub are much smaller and between that and whatever else they’ve done, it solves this problem. It doesn’t help in the dryer, but at least there is only one need to untangle instead of two.

Moving into the kitchen, a number of years ago I was put onto the method of making lasagna without boiling the noodles and I love that shortcut. The other  day I was going for lasagna noodles and a box from Barilla caught my eye – lasagna sheets. They are a little thinner, don’t have the scalloped edges and are created as no-boil with a total baking time of 40 minutes instead of the usual 55. They are cut to accommodate a standard oblong baking dish and you place them across the dish instead of down the length. The directions said the noodles will expand while baking to fit the dish. It looked a little odd, but sure enough, 25 minutes later when I removed the foil, the noodles fit the dish as if I had cut them to do so. Another 8-10 minutes for final browning and I couldn’t have asked for a better looking lasagna. Although neither of these things is momentous, they are both time savers.



You Never Know….

Descending onto USS Spiegel Grove. (Photo by Don Altemus)

Descending onto USS Spiegel Grove. (Photo by Don Altemus)

I intended to post yesterday and by the time I made it home from a round of meetings, a lovely lunch with friends and multiple errands, I had a string of email tasks to attend to. Anyway, my first session of the morning was with the History of Diving Museum in Islamorada that I have posted about on different occasions. Richie Kohler is flying in next week where we will have a book signing on Wed, 19 Oct 5-7, and he’ll do his presentation at 7:00. History of Diving Museum will also be in Losner Park with us for the Seahunts Festival Sat, 22 Oct 1-5. Anyway, after we knocked out the details for those events, we moved on to something I didn’t know about. 2017 is the 15th anniversary of deploying the mighty USS Spiegel Grove as an artificial reef. Until they put the Oriskany down off Pensacola and the Vandenburg off Key West, the Spiegel was the largest artificial reef in the world (510 feet long). My non-fiction, Islands in the Sand, has a chapter devoted to her and Groupers and Gunmounts: Inside the USS Spiegel Grove is a co-authored, photo-heavy book my friend Don Altemus talked me into. Let’s just say that neither has broken any sales records. However, as with all my books, they were a joy to write and in doing do, I met a lot of interesting people that I otherwise would not have.

I knew about the anniversary, but didn’t know the museum in going all out. They will have a special exhibit beginning in January going through May (the actual anniversary) and that will give the opportunity to highlight both books. It may not lead to anything other than another handful of sales, but who knows, it could also spark a surge.

All That Prep…..

Anyone who follows the blog probably knows by now Hurricane Matthew swung a wider path than anticipated and hit well north of us. We of course feel for those who have borne (and may yet bear) the brunt. We do have a lot of residents who arrived in 2006 or later as we have had calm hurricane seasons. They have not seen trees bent over, rain coming down as if from a fire hose, power lines snapped and arcing sparks and flames across the road, phones and electricity out for days. (And that was with only a Cat 1) The idea we took measures that were not in fact required doesn’t mean it was wasted effort. The problem, as always, is if you wait until the last minute to be sure, you wait too long for certain things. Shutters and food/water provisions are the best examples. If you have bolt-on metal shutters or plywood, they are heavy, difficult to maneuver, and time-consuming to put up. What is more difficult, however, is to try and do so when the wind picks up to 30-40 miles an hour, then increases. Waiting to go to the grocery store means, at a minimum, you’ll be in long lines with less choice (sometimes a lot less) than you would have otherwise.

Unlike tornadoes and earthquakes that come with little, if any, warning, hurricanes and blizzards generally approach over a period of time and you have to make decisions. This really is why having basic items on-hand during whatever the “season” is makes sense. That can in fact minimize what you have to do when threatened. Since items like batteries and non-perishable food can be kept for long periods, buy them at the beginning, then plan to use them in the later months. (Okay, we did forget the case of water in the garage that sat for more than two years, but it was useful for watering plants.)

Sure, it’s irritating to wrestle with something like heavy shutters when it turns out to have been not needed, but it’s a great deal less trouble than dealing with the aftermath of even a Cat 1. In actuality, one of the best “preps” is to sit with someone who genuinely knows how to read the detailed discussions of weather reports such as you get from sites like Weather Underground. It may seem confusing, but once you understand the minutia, you are better equipped to make your own decisions.

Home and Hurricanes….

The quick trip to Louisiana for Daddy’s 92d birthday went as well as can be expected and there were obviously questions about Hurricane Matthew. I explained that as long as he went East or North, we were fine. West, not so much. And so we’re now very much in the “wait and see” mode because “deviation” is what matters about landfall around us. Despite the sophistication of the weather gurus, Mother Nature will do as she wishes. The likelihood for us is a lot of rain and maybe wind tomorrow. On the other hand, a “deviation” could shift everything. One would like to think with plenty of open water out in the Atlantic, other than messing with ships, Matthew could churn around for a while and do limited damage. Of course, that’s pretty much always the case in these situations. We, here in this area, haven’t had much hurricane activity since the summer of 2005 that was definitely active. Someone mentioned on FB this morning that we should engage newcomers in conversation to either bring up important points or answer questions they might have. I made the trip to the grocery store yesterday and filled the car.

An advantage for us when it comes to power loss is we have two Emergency Response stations in opposite directions within a couple of miles of us and they are on high priority for any restoration. I’m not sure where we fall in that “grid”, but I think we’re probably close. We do have a small generator although it’s a manual and getting it out isn’t really worth it if we are only talking a few hours without power. It won’t run the AC, but it will keep the fridge and stove going which are the main things.  So, we shall see what the next couple of days bring.

Day Three of Trip…..

We have become so accustomed to our electronics and connectivity that when they fail us we can get downright cranky. Okay, I’m sure there are people who cheerfully accept it, but I’m not one of them. Indeed, our house is beginning to look like a computer graveyard with multiple old laptops and what will soon be this Surface. The Surface is a cross between a notebook and a tablet. I bought it a few years ago to travel with because unlike a tablet, it has a USB port which means I can carry files with me to work on and then easily transfer them to my regular laptop that stays comfortably at home. The Surface with power cord only weighs a couple of pounds. Unfortunately, the Surface is suffering from some very odd behavior this trip. I can barely manage to access email and it took multiple tries to get to the blog. Anyway, such is modern life.

Today is actually Daddy’s 92d birthday and I’ll go back out to the assisted living facility this morning and take him somewhere for lunch if he’d like. If not, I’ll dine there with him and then be ready for the 2:00 cake and punch everyone is looking forward to. If all goes well, we will have set up a video call with our son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter so they can wish him Happy Birthday. I’ll be leaving there this afternoon to spend the night closer to the airport and have dinner with another old school friend. I wasn’t able to link up with her the last trip, so hopefully this will work out. As for next year’s birthday celebration, who knows for sure. Apparently, there is one resident who is preparing for her 101st soon.