Turtle in Key Largo. Photo by hubby, of course.
Part of the fascination with scuba is the ability to temporarily exist within the marine world that is filled with creatures of all shapes and sizes. Everyone has their favorites and despite the allure of the “big stuff”, you also learn to appreciate the tiny fish and other marine life that you find on the reefs and in the sand. With that said though, turtles are among the ones that divers keep an eye out for and always enjoy. The green sea turtle is the most common in this area along with the hawksbill and you can see loggerheads and leatherbacks. There is a species called the Kemp’s Ridley, but it is really rare and I don’t personally know of anyone who has ever seen one in the wild.
The trick to diving with turtles is to try and curb your excitement when you see one. If it has plenty of air and doesn’t perceive you as a threat, it will often swim slowly, allowing you to keep pace. There is something special about being able to do that and yes, you do occasionally lose sight of where the boat is if you’re following a turtle. It’s worth having an extra distance to swim back. Turtles can be easily impacted by trash though and monofilament line, straws, plastic bags and plastic rings like that hold a six pack of beverages together are among some of the worst common items that people carelessly toss into the water. The fishing line and plastic rings can snare a turtle’s flippers, literally trapping it underwater or tightening into the skin enough to cut it. Turtles eat jellyfish among other things and plastic bags or straws can look like food. Once ingested, plastics can’t be digested and that causes all sorts of problems. So please, if you are on or around the water, be extra careful with your trash and make sure it’s placed in a secure bin. We love our turtles and want to do everything we can to keep them safe.
A different turtle pose.
Freshly painted Bobbie Joe’s and Friends restaurant in Homestead, FL
I am one of those people who enjoy a range of dining options and there are occasions when a down-home, basic place is exactly what I am in the mood for. We have a number of small, family owned restaurants in town and among them was Bobbie Jo’s, tucked into a strip shopping spot which also happens to be one of the older buildings in town that managed to survive Hurricane Andrew. I had been in Bobbie Jo’s twice and while it was okay, it had struck me as perhaps being past its prime. So, when a good friend began to talk about how much she liked the place, I wondered if I had misjudged it. I had not actually, and why I had not is an interesting story.
When I was there, the current owner was struggling and two of the older patrons who had known the family for many years were convinced that a recovery was possible. So, despite being very much in the senior citizen category, this couple has taken up the mantle, determined to make what is now Bobbie Jo’s and Friends the sort of restaurant that it had once been. This is not fancy, not remotely. It is breakfast and lunch, no booze served, but you can get breakfast any time they are open. It is classic breakfast fare, soups, sandwiches, and plate lunches; good food at reasonable prices. It is the type of place where the waitresses quickly learn your name and the new owners will stop at the table to chat. I had a hamburger steak smothered with grilled onions in brown gravy that brought back memories of before the days of franchise restaurants.
I don’t know if the effort to revitalize Bobbie Jo’s and Friends will pay off, but I do know that I will happily recommend it and be returning.
Manatees at Sea World, Orlando
Despite multiple trips to Orlando, Sea World had not been one of our stops. I came up here yesterday to join my sister and her husband who had flown in from Houston. Since they happened to be staying only a couple of exits down from Sea World, that was our destination today. We arrived early with overcast clouds, although as the morning progressed, the sky cleared more than had been initially forecast. We had no intention of taking the rollercoaster rides and that did cut out a fair amount of what was offered, but there were plenty of attractions and exhibits to enjoy. The 300-foot Sea Tower gave a lovely panoramic view and the dolphins are always fun whether they are in a show or not. There was a beautiful aviary with roseate spoonbills and other water fowl and the tunnel with reef all around you moved from Caribbean to South Pacific with plenty of sharks. The Turtle Trek, a 3-D presentation of life from the perspective of a green sea turtle, was especially enjoyable. Prior to entering the theater, you went through the part of the building with an underwater view of 14 rescued sea turtles, several species of fish and manatees. After exiting the presentation, you had the top-down view of the manatees and the turtles when they would come up for air. There were actually three manatees, peacefully hanging about munching on heads of lettuce.
It was a pleasant day with the great landscaping throughout the park providing an extra touch for those of us who love tropical plants.
I spent my Saturday doing one of those things that make you look around with pride. Noreen Legault Mendonza is the founder of the organization and you can read the details about the team and the background at their web site of http://www.geekigirl.org
I met Noreen literally by accident one day when she was on the end of a meeting with a woman who I was meeting with next. Although I don’t qualify for the Geeki in the sense of being tech-savvy or inclined to science, math or engineering, I have most assuredly made my way in non-traditional roles. I was glad to sign up to be one of the presenters at the breakout sessions and have lunch in between. There were around 100 girls in attendance at the South Dade High School, ranging from middle school through seniors. The Miami-Dade County Public School System has incorporated the STEM/STEAM academy into many of their schools as a voluntary track. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math is the basic STEM and schools can elected to add the “A” in either Art or Aeronautics. Studies consistently show that middle school is where girls start backing away from math, etc.,. and so the focus for yesterday was to encourage girls to enter the STEAM academy that does have “Art” as the “A”. Indeed, one of the morning speakers was an engineer who had started in art, then moved into architect, and finally engineering having never thought that was something she would pursue. Geeki Girls emphasizes marrying art and technology and this impressive young woman was a perfect representative for that approach.
The presenters covered quite a range – Air Force Officer, Cisco Code Writer, Police Detective, Entrepreneur, Physician, Model, Animator, and so forth. Not surprisingly, the “CSI” and film making were among the most popular breakout sessions, but those of us with less exciting topics had a good time. During lunch when they asked us to be sure and sit with girls that we hadn’t interacted with yet, it was a special treat for me to have one of them say she was in JROTC and planned to go into the Army through college ROTC and one of the other girls was looking at the Air Force. That really was a coincidence of where I sat down.
I have mentioned the value of mentoring in other posts and while Saturday’s session wasn’t quite that, it was an opportunity for role modeling to girls that the world is truly open to them.
Okay, we are trying to lock in the meeting with the contractor and the cabinet guy to work out final design and timeline for the big remodel of mainly the kitchen, although the front room will be impacted as well, and the flooring of course is both rooms, plus the stairs and loft/landing that leads to the upstairs bedrooms.
Since we can’t actually increase the square footage of the house due to the lot size, we are trying to maximize the space in the kitchen. We aren’t going to change the basic footprint much because any time you start moving electrical and plumbing, you greatly add to the cost and the general layout is not bad. There will be essentially only two structural changes and I’ll post about them later. The kitchen will be gutted though to make the changes and bring in new appliances.
In the model of home that we have, some people use the bay area for a small table and the open area for a small den. When we moved in, we opted to put a small island in the bay area and the dining table in the open space. That was mostly because we had an extra “den set” and we put that in the front room to have two separate seating areas. We have now given away the extra den set and that spot will become the place for the dining table and the corner hutch. We will also move the sideboards to underneath the large window. I’m not quite ready yet to discuss the plans for what will be the open area of the kitchen. I really have to see how the new island that will replace the current peninsula works out before we finalize that. Scale of furniture to the room is important to me. While we will use stock cabinetry as much as possible, we are going to have a few custom pieces put in so that we can utilize the space as much as possible. The cabinet guy will do three 14-inch deep cabinets for the bay area. Fourteen inches isn’t very deep, but that should hold things like odd-sized platters and trays that we use. Those are always tough to store and get stacked up which makes them bothersome to get to. Well, they’ll still be sort of stacked up, but on their sides instead of flat.
Okay, notwithstanding that neither of our teams made it into the Superbowl, we’re okay with Denver and Seattle and will root for Denver because of Peyton Manning. In reality, we’re not emotionally invested though, so we’re just looking for a good game. We like to do a regionally compatible menu when we can and we tossed around a couple of ideas. We also like to have an easy main dish as the main meal and that becomes a bit more complicated when faced with Denver and Seattle. Lamb stew almost made it, but not everyone eats lamb. So, we will be regional with appetizers and have a taco bar for halftime. Bison sliders to represent Colorado (I think they have bison there) and smoked salmon for Seattle along with a few other standard things. Beer from Colorado is easy and we will go in search of beer from Washington and the wine part is simple. Of course wine with tacos doesn’t quite work, so it could turn into sangria and I’ll probably throw margaritas in for general principle. The neighbors who usually attend don’t know any of this yet, and for that matter, we don’t know if any of them will be available.
Superbowl meals really should be something easy because that’s the spirit of the event. Brats and burgers are fine, chili, lasagna, ribs, and chicken all work well and the taco or fajita bar is an option. You can do a shrimp or crab boil, too, although that gets you into the thought of Louisiana, Maryland, or one of the Carolinas’ teams. Not to mention with the smell of steaming large quantities of seafood, outside is best for those menus and February isn’t the best time of year for that. We don’t have the cold weather issue here, but we also don’t have the outdoor television arrangement that one of our neighbors went with when they enclosed their terrace.
Small Town Haven is the second book in the Helen Chowder Adventure Series.
I have locked my travel plans into place for the American Quilters Association (AQS) show in Lancaster, PA. http://bit.ly/138EvO0 where I will be making author appearances 13-15 March. (The show actually begins on the 12th.) I am excited on multiple levels because this will be my first show to do since publication of Small Town Lies and the recently released Small Town Haven (http://charliehudson.net/books.html), and we haven’t been to Lancaster in a long time. The idea of being surrounded by so many quilters and to put faces to names of several that I’ve spoken with or emailed is something that I am really looking forward to. As I have previously posted, when I began writing the Helen Crowder Adventure Series, I was fully embraced by every quilter that I have turned to for advice and I have come to have an even deeper appreciation for this craft than before.
If you haven’t been to either the charming area of Lancaster or to a quilting show, it’s something that you may want to consider. Granted, it might still be a bit nippy that time of year, but there could also be a milder stretch with blossoms beginning to appear. I’ll keep a close eye on the forecast when I start packing.
Tile floors in South Florida do make sense, but there is the reality of grout lines that get dirty to downright nasty the longer you have them in and the higher the traffic area. We also have a small amount of Berber carpet on the stairs and up into the little loft area that leads into the upstairs bedrooms/bath. We’ve debated for some time about having the tiles cleaned and resealed, which if we’d done that two years ago, they wouldn’t look so bad, and a few of the tiles in the kitchen have cracked from what was probably improper installation. Wood flooring is the other option and that opens an array of choices. Two different friends have gone from tile to bamboo and that seemed to fit our lifestyle.
Off we went to Lumber Liquidators (not an endorsement since had we shopped around more other places might have been just as good) to look at samples and my, what a lot of choices they had. We didn’t want to go dark, reddish, or too light, so that cut out about a third of the samples. I like the concept of hand scraped, but it also frequently gives somewhat of a “ripple” effect and I set that aside. The price of bamboo has come down considerably since it was first introduced and with 1,000+ square feet and the stairs to do, we did want to stay within a certain budget. The Acacia and Brazilian woods were lovely, as were several others. We then homed in on the bamboo as the young man who was quite knowledgeable told us the three we’d narrowed it down to were all on sale for another few days. That did help with the decision and then it was mostly width of the plank and thickness. He gave us samples and we brought them home where I laid them down side-by-side. It was a toss-up for a while and we waited a day or two before we decided on the wider plank that was slightly thinner. The order is in and we do have a spot cleared to place 50+ boxes of flooring when it comes it. An important factor you have to take into account with bamboo is that you need 2-3 weeks of having it in the place where it is to be installed in order for it to acclimate prior to installation.
We had originally planned to look for new cabinets and granite, then go for the flooring, but with the sale on, the color that we chose is within the palette we like and there shouldn’t be an issue with coordinating the other. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.
“Rooftop Terrace” , joined by vocalist performing at Jazz in the Garden Jan 2014
What a week it has been with back-to-back meetings every day, and I mean every single day. That, of course, will be my flimsy excuse for not having posted and especially for not having posted about this topic. Let me set the stage. Notwithstanding my husband’s belief that I am involved in way too many groups/projects, there are people who do even more than I do. Anyway, as I have posted before, I belong to the Homestead Center for the Arts (HCA), a group that works to promote the artistic and cultural “pockets” in and around Homestead that many people are unaware of. There are multiple affiliates within HCA ranging from artists, choirs, dancers, historians, orchid enthusiasts, and wood turners. One day, and there was wine involved (okay, it might have been beer), three of us were having lunch at the White Lion Café which has a lovely, large terrace area. “Wouldn’t something like a jazz session outside be nice?” was the crux of the conversation. From that, we spun off and within a few days, we had developed the idea for the Music Series (MuSe) that became a new committee within HCA.
The intent was/is to have 3 evening functions per year that feature different genres of music in an outdoor setting with the option of dinner. The Jazz in the Garden that we held January 9th was a hit and everyone had a good time. The 9th was a Thursday because we don’t want to compete with the many activities that tend to be held on the weekends and Thursday is one of those nights where people can say, “Sure, I’ll go out – I can get through Friday.” The focus for MuSe will be to concentrate on local musicians and even though we didn’t have time to make it happen for the first event, we want to especially find that young/unknown musician and allow him/her/them to play during the breaks to provide a platform for really new talent. The next event will be “April Blues” and we’re excited about how that will be. Check out Homestead Center for the Arts at http://www.homesteadcenterforthearts.com/
Okay, my poor husband is allowed a little extra sympathy today. As I have posted about before, he is a night owl and I am very much a morning person. We have a well-established rhythm worked out for us where I awaken around 5:00 a.m. (or earlier), put the coffee on, come upstairs and then go back downstairs when I hear him start to putter about somewhere around 8:00 a.m. That changes though when he has morning boat because he has to get up at 6:00 and leaves the house around 7:15 on those days. He has had a string of such days, but this week he isn’t scheduled for mornings so he gets to sleep in. However, yesterday, I had a really early breakfast networking meeting and was out of the house by 6:40, leaving him going peacefully back to sleep. I was supposed to have an 8:30 meeting this morning, although that has been changed and I forgot to tell him. The stage is now set for what follows.
I awakened a couple of minutes before 5:00 and my husband stirred enough for me to say, “I’ll be back down at 6:00.” I really, truly, honestly thought he was teaching a class all day today which meant he needed to be up at 6:00. I hadn’t told him my meeting was postponed, so evidently he thought that I meant I would be back down at 6:00 to get dressed for my meeting. Ergo, I come down right before six, going about with morning tasks to include pouring him a mug of coffee in his to-go cup, warming him a slice of pizza (yes, but that’s the subject of another post), and notice that he seems to have closed his eyes again and hasn’t turned on the television as is his immediate habit. My, “Hey, what’s the deal?” was met with a decidedly puzzled look and that’s when I discover that he doesn’t have a class today and he discovers that I don’t have a meeting until 9:30. Needless to say, telling him to just drift on back to sleep isn’t going to work very well at this stage. The only good thing is that he can at least lounge about for a bit and not have to be in a hurry. Ah well, he should get to sleep in tomorrow and Friday.